As an Information Technology professional I believe that IT is changing and will keep changing the way we live and, of course, our future. IoT (Internet of Things) has been a major topic of discussion, especially in 2014.
Everyone predicts that in the near future almost everything will be connected to the Internet and will have its own IP address. Connectivity not only includes PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphone, but coffee machines, refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, microwaves ovens, cookers, closets, etc
I am afraid that one day the refrigerator will refuse to open because it reads my mind about wanting chocolates, and finds that I am overweight. The next day my car will not drive me home, but to the local gym after checking my schedule and finding some free time. Then it will kick me out saying, “Go do some exercises, your extra weight consumes more fuel, and my chassis will not endure until next summer!” Thank goodness, it is just a dream right now. I don’t even own a car, and will never think about buying a smart internet connected refrigerator, simply because it’s very expensive.
In this article, I will share my thoughts and raise questions about four main factors related to IoT’s future:
- IP addressing
- Renewable energy sources for mobile things
- Reasonable and affordable systems
- Community safety and security
In 2012, the number of Internet-connected devices exceeded the number of people on earth, and about 25 billion objects will be Internet-connected by 2020. The numbers are amazing, but in order for IoT to reach its full potential, I think we will need more IP addresses than we are currently anticipating.
If we look back to the 90’s Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, aka the “Father of the Internet”, showed up with his T-shirt “IP on Everything”. He had a strong vision about IP and the way we should use it. So how can IoT reach its full potential?
IPv6 is the most promising solution right now. When IPv4 was introduced, no one imagined the future size of the Internet. IPv4 only had the capacity to handle 4.3 billion addresses, while Ipv6 can handle about 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 address. Will IPv6 be enough for IoT devices and objects? Until now it seemed the answer was yes. But what about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?
In most of today’s IoT systems, sensors collect data and use wireless connectivity to forward it to the controllers. The controllers, which are IP-Enabled gather the raw data and forward it across an IP network to the online application in order to process the data, which allows individuals to access the controller remotely. Many sensors are connected to one controller, which connects to the IP network using an IP address. This means many sensors share one IP address. Now there are IP-Enabled sensors that support TCP/IP, which removes the need for a controller. Will that start a new model where sensors and controllers are combined in one system, like a wearable PC? If so, this will increase the demands for new IP addresses.
For example in agriculture instead of one weather station for the whole orchard, maybe every tree will have its own internet connected microcomputer device, which will have a lot of sensors and data collected by those sensors, sent over WLAN or the Internet to farmer system software which manages the orchard. This means every tree will have an IP address to connect to the WLAN and the internet. I don’t think that will be limited to orchards only. Cattle farms already use simple wireless sensors to report the temperature of the cattle and detect illnesses early. Maybe every cow in the future will wear its own computing device, so it will need its own IP address. Maybe in the future we will see new technologies like COIP (Cattle over IP), TOIP (Tree over IP) & POIP (Pet over IP).
So with the need for new IP addresses will IPv6 be enough? Are we going to have IPv8? IPv4 is 32bit and IPv6 is 128bit. Will IPv8 be 512bit or even 1024 bit? Who knows?
I don’t know if anyone thinks about life after IPv6, but with the IoT evolution and the increased demand for its services, I am sure a final answer will be found.
Renewable energy sources for mobile things
Many simple IoT devices and sensors use radio waves to generate power and operate. Things like coffee machines, traffic lights, cars and most fixed electrical objects will have their own power source.
But what about cattle, pets, and trees? How will their wearable devices be powered? Mobility is one of the main problems IoT will face and I think renewable energy sources could be a possible solution. Miniature photovoltaic systems could suit mobile things like cattle while miniature wind turbines could be used for fixed things like trees.
Reasonable and affordable systems
Many consumer product manufacturers say that most devices will be connected to the Internet in the very near future. But do we need every device to be connected? For example, home washing machines. What is the need for Internet connectivity for a washer? Saving detergent? Or is it just a feature to raise the product price in favor of the manufacturers, not the consumer? Internet connected washing machines cost about 25,000 EGP ($3500) while my beautiful new normal washing machine costs me about 2,500 EGP ($350). In order for IoT to expand, connected devices need to be affordable for the regular consumer, so we can buy them instead of dreaming about them.
If we look back to the history of the personal computer, we will remember that PCs were once large, slow and expensive. Now they are small, extremely fast and affordable. In fact, most of us own multiple computing devices like PCs, Laptops, Smartphones and Tablets.
Community safety and security
IoT will increase our daily dependency on machines and our Information technology obsession. Is that safe? Everyone talks about information security and privacy issues with IoT. I am not worried about it because I know security professionals will handle them.
Community security will be the main issue not IT security. Although IoT offers a chance to ease our lives, it comes with a risk. Is IoT the beginning of a new era of Artificial Intelligence, eliminating the need for a human workforce? Will our remaining jobs be taken by robots? For example, 3D printers can print the products we want at our home. We just need to buy and download the instructions.
Future generations will be raised in a world dependent on machines. What happens if they wake up and find that all the things they depend on malfunction due to natural disaster or attack? An EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) or a NNEMP (Non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse) weapon could fry electronics devices and send our communities back to the Stone Age. There is a famous quote “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is usually interrupted by the man doing it”.
If you have watched Sci-Fi movies like I, Robot, Eagle Eye, Terminator Salvation, The Matrix, etc., perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Is this the beginning of human extinction?” Of course, not, I am kidding, but the future of IoT certainly sparks imaginations, including mine!
I am a member of the Cisco Champions Program. Cisco Champions are passionate about Cisco and enjoy sharing our knowledge, expertise, and thoughts across the social web and with Cisco. I am not a representative of Cisco. My views as a Cisco Champion are my own