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The 3 fixes needed to get the network ready for the IoT revolution

Jack Water, CTO of Level 3 Communications | March 2, 2016
Many traditional networks are still manual, static and complex, which isn’t ideal for IoT. To realize the promise of a hyper-connected future, three shifts must take place.

Although vendor-written, this contributed piece does not advocate a position that is particular to the author’s employer and has been edited and approved by Executive Networks Media editors.

Cisco estimates 50 billion devices and objects will be connected to the Internet by 2020. And that estimate may be low. If consumers count every device that draws power in their home – lamps, light bulbs, kitchen gadgets – and then factor in objects at work, there may be many more billions of connected devices by then.

But the problem is, many traditional networks are still manual, static and complex, which isn’t ideal for IoT.  To realize the promise of a hyper-connected future, three shifts must take place.

* Fiber.  The bandwidth needed for the onslaught of IoT connected devices should be enough to make anyone think about the fiber. At the Consumer Electronics Show, a lot of coverage focused on this because of the emergence of 4K ultra-high-definition television. But there were poignant examples as well, one involving a medical use case in Cleveland.  An organization helped deploy a fiber-optic network capable of 100Gbps data transfer speeds to support high-definition video so remote neurosurgeons could assist in operations, because obviously buffering and delays are not acceptable.

The underlying conversation around 4K and 100Gbps has to do with fiber-optic networks. Getting cities – and consumers – hardwired with fiber will be a necessity of the future. The term Smart City has been used to characterize these communities that are investing in infrastructure and advancing science and technology efforts to securely collect and use data to do everything from decrease energy consumption to cut overhead costs and improve the life of residents. The White House stepped into this arena last September when it announced a “Smart Cities” Initiative to invest more than $160 million in the concept.

* IPv6.  Right now, we aren’t actually seeing an overwhelming adoption of IoT devices in personal homes or offices. Cisco stated in its same report, more than 99 percent of things in the physical world remain unconnected. However, it’s only a matter of time before every single aspect of our life is Internet dependent.

In today’s environment, if consumers want their devices to be accessed outside of their homes or private networks, a user has to go in to their Wi-Fi router and portmap it to an outside network. This is complicated and not very user friendly. 

The fix: give public IP space to all of the “things.” Great in theory, however, the rate of new “things” is growing at such a rapid pace, the current method of assigning addresses won’t be able to accommodate the volume. In order to provide addresses for every device, the Internet will need to transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

 

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