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BLOG: Your car could have an Internet address soon!

Yves Poppe | Aug. 27, 2012
Cars already have unique identifiers referred to as VIN, or vehicle identification number. A logical approach would be to map the VIN into an IPv6 address.

In August 2007 we mused in Go6, the IPv6 Portal about IPv6 and communicating swarms of cars; IPv6 was even the topic of a talk at the Geneva Auto Show that year. Back in January 2004 it seemed like a privilege to sit a minute in the 'Renault IPv6 car' showcased at the European Union IPv6 launch event. But in retrospect, electronic gear was still too bulky and way too expensive and broadband mobile data communication was still in its infancy; miniaturisation and advances in storage and processing power still had a way to go before commercialisation of the idea made sense.

Eight years onward, the discussion has shifted to an easy way to endow our cars with a unique Internet address.  It had been noted that cars already have unique identifiers referred to as VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). A VIN consists of 17 characters and has a standardised format including country, manufacturer, vehicle type and features, model year, plant and serial number. A logical approach would be to map the VIN into an IPv6 address. A cursory search on Google shows that, in March 2011, Samsung received a US patent for "a method to set an Internet protocol address using a vehicle identification number'. With everything even remotely patentable being patented, we could extrapolate that soon, everything that can be morphed into an IPv6 address will be chained to the patent mountain. 

Vital statistics

In the meantime, some top brands including BMW already offer a teleservice that enables the car to transmit vital statistics and to ask a technician to immediately perform a remote check-up if the driver thinks something in the vehicle does not function right. Five years from now, such functionality is likely to be standard fare on most new models coming to market. Will it still be outlandish to consider extending the service to include remote monitoring of the vital signs of an ageing driver population? There is no doubt that considerable new revenue opportunities lurk not far below the surface as m2m communications increasingly takes hold in a diverse range of application categories with the prospect of billions of mobile and fixed animate and inanimate entities exchanging actionable information.

In 2010, Chevrolet launched the Chevrolet Volt which not only had its own IP address but also roughly 10 million lines of software code. While the usage of the IP address for the Chevy is still limited, it is a clear indication of the direction that car manufacturers are beginning to realise the potential that an IP address could provide to the drivers.

But it is not just the drivers that could potentially benefit from tagging an IP address onto a car. Various government agencies could use the IP address to track lost or stolen vehicles or check on cars that have exceeded certain mileage and are no longer fit to be on the road. Service providers can also extend their services to provide remote diagnosis of possible problems. The younger generation might not too be pleased but parents could also track where their kids are and monitor driving speeds.


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