Last month was all about the iPhone 6.
This month, we’re sticking to the number 6 but will raise you one in global importance: Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). Before we delve into this little known evolution, let’s gain some perspective by looking at a better known phenomenon in the contemporary tech landscape: The Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things encompasses an increasing volume of devices which are newly Internet-enabled, and hence now inter-connected. The result is an unprecedented and, at times, unfathomable web of functional devices which can be controlled and automated.
In a recent Technology Industry Outlook Survey released by KPMG, 1 in 5 technology executives cited the Internet of Things as the biggest driver of their company’s revenue in the next 24 months.
There are some fantastic industry innovations going on in various sectors which demonstrate this new age of hyper-connectivity in all things. For example:
Medicine (e.g. the Mimo baby monitor which communicates with a smartphone aimed at preventing SIDS)
Energy & Infrastructure (e.g. Echelon’s smart lighting system which automates the lighting required for time of day, season and weather conditions)
Retail (e.g. In-store analytics technology which allows real-world AB testing of merchandising in supermarkets)
The socio-economic implications of further innovation in this space are vast. However, there is a crucial limitation we need to overcome to experience this growth: the evolution of connected technology has out-paced the Internet itself. We need to evolve Internet Protocol or face negative growth.
Our legacy Internet Protocol (IPv4), facilitates the connection of 4.3 billion unique IP addresses (and hence devices). Cisco estimates that 2-3 billion of these unique addresses are currently in use, but that 99% of objects which might one day join the Internet of Things remain unconnected. There’s hence a potential for approximately 40 billion connected devices to exist by 2020, which is a scary number when facing the inadequacy of addresses remaining under IPv4.
In layman’s terms, the Internet is running out!
Enter: IPv6, the new Internet Protocol. It allows for 340 undecillion IP addresses to answer global demand (and this is a real number according to Computer World). The process of transitioning to this new protocol actually began in 1998. 16 years later, only around 4% of global internet traffic is carried by IPv6 which remains a major growth threat to the Internet of Things, and in turn to businesses.
Google has published country-specific statistics which enable us to rank Australia against the world. Our adoption is sitting at 1.03%, compared to 9.47% in the US and as high as 11.45% in European countries. Slow adoption is a problem in the wider APAC region, with Japan being the only country surpassing the global average.
The major barrier to IPv6 adoption is the financial expense to service providers of upgrading their hardware to support the new protocol. Initially, there was only one Australian provider offering IPv6 (Internode), with the roll out given a ‘long term’ priority status (if any) with mobile carriers. For these companies who dictate Australians’ Internet access, there is a ‘Band-Aid solution’ widely adopted called Network Address Translation (NAT). NAT allows multiple devices to use the same IP address, which allays the inevitable shortage but arguably ignores the longer term issue.
It would seem that governmental intervention will be required to either mandate IPv6 uptake among service providers, or to indirectly achieve this by educating Australian consumers about the potential barrier to growth our slow uptake represents.
As things are sitting, IPv6 adoption isn’t keeping many of us awake at night. But with connectivity and technical innovation playing such a crucial role in Australian and international business growth, perhaps we should be as impatient for IPv6 as we seem to be for the iPhone 6.
By Bobbie Gersbach, Digital Manager at Vizeum