In this post, I’m going to talk about a very important and trending topic nowadays: Internet of $#!+. Internet of what? Internet of Anything that comes to your mind, a.k.a. “Internet of Things”. The idea of Internet of Things (IoT) was born with the Internet IPv6 protocol, which enormously increased the public addressing for connecting any device to the Internet. IPv6’s ancestor (IPv4) offered a limited capacity for public internet addressing and only companies and Internet Providers (ISPs) could be connected directly to the Internet. This meant that, if we wanted to communicate from/to any device inside a house or company, we had to do it by converting the device’s private address to one of the limited public IP addresses. This process is known as Network Address Translation (NAT).
So back then, ‘things’ weren’t really communicating between them through Internet and only computers that ‘understood’ the logics of NAT were able to do so. With IPv6, the use of NAT was deprecated because the available public IP addresses for connecting entities directly to the internet increased exponentially, so the tech industry started thinking of connecting literally everything to the Internet. This is when terms such as “Internet of Things (IoT)” and “Internet of Everything (IoE)” became popular in tech jargon.

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Figure 1: The idyllic utopia of Internet of Things

And I use the phrase ‘thinking of connecting’ in the previous paragraph, because it was only an idealistic thought. The reality is that, although IPv6 was created 19 years ago (1998) for connecting everything to Internet, it was officially launched only 5 years ago, and even nowadays (2017), many companies worldwide are still using IPv4 for connecting devices to the internet and most of them are still connecting only PCs and servers rather than ‘everything’. In the following graph published by AKAMAI, we can observe IPv6 adoption rates around the world. It is noticeable that, even in most first-world countries that are leading this technology shift, the adoption rate for IPv6 is under 30%:

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Figure 2: IPv6 adoption rate until January 2017 (Souce: AKAMAI)

Some other statistics, for example the ones shown by Google, show that IPv6 adoption worldwide is still under 20% and only USA and Belgium exceed a 30% of adoption.

In his blog, Bernard Cole (2015) narrates wonderfully the happenings of IoT: “The Internet of Things has come to imply a connected world in which all electronic things will be connected via IPv6’s TCP/IP protocol stack, with each identified by its own unique URL. But not everything will be so connected, for a variety of reasons. Even now, the IoT is beginning to fragment into many multiple subdomains: an industrial IoT, a building automation IoT, a defense and aeronautics IoT, and a consumer IoT”.

So, “Internet of Things” has become an epic journey only traversed by fearless technology leaders and entrepreneurs in specific industries. This doesn’t mean that “Internet of Things” is not happening. It is happening, but not in the way and with the speed that was expected. But, within this small percentage of adoption and these specific industries, what’s going on with the IoT?

IoT use cases for 2017

Firstly, IoT has been a trending topic during the last four years and technology experts are not giving up on it, as we can appreciate in 2017’s forecasts by Forbes and Gartner . But, as stated in Cole’s blog, it is happening in specific industries. In earlier years, we could read articles saying that “everything is going to be connected to the internet”, but now, the vision is narrowing and I’m truly glad to be reading more specific use cases for this. Some of the most relevant ones are:

a) Integration of Internet of Things (IoT) with Virtual Reality (VR)

“Rooms and spaces will become active with things, and their connection through the mesh will appear and work in conjunction with immersive virtual worlds.” (Gartner 2017).

b) Digital Twins

Digital twins are defined by Gartner as “dynamic software model of a physical thing or system that relies on sensor data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations and add value”. Also known as ‘avatars’, this amazing technology will allow us to manipulate 3D simulations of real-life objects, as we’ve seen since many years ago only in science-fiction movies.

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Figure 3: Avatars/digital twins in Avatar movie (left) and Oblivion movie (right)

Information from complex real-life objects will be collected through internet-connected sensors and it will be used to recreate these dynamic models or simulations of the objects, for the sake of collaborative learning, working or any other application. A real life application of this is shown in the following image:

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Figure 4: Avatar of GE’s wind turbine (Source: GE)

c) Intelligent things and Artificial Intelligence

IoT will focus on connecting intelligent entities to the Internet: robots, drones and autonomous vehicles. This is an evolution to the earlier IoT concept, because industry is not prioritizing anymore the connection of dumb items such as kettles to the internet; if IoT is to be used, it will be used to create an intelligent mesh of intelligent entities that can learn from each other by communicating and using Artificial Intelligence.

The dark side of IoT

Beyond the impressive trends described above, there is a dark side of the Internet of Things (IoT). Some of the most worrying possibilities are: Privacy invasion in our homes through Internet-connected house appliances, botnet used to release DDoS attacks through the Internet by hijacking thousands of poorly secured IoT devices (usually house appliances, CCTV cameras, DVRs and any other low-cost devices) or most scarying, Ransomware of Things (RoS), a new idea of hijacking IoT devices in mission-critical systems to guarantee a fast payment of the ransom.

Note: To read more about Cyber-Security, go to my post Adaptive Security.

Conclusion

IoT is here to stay and, despite of its low progress and its possible downsides, we can still see it as a mayor trend in several forums. So, we need to adapt our mindset to embrace the Internet of Things as part of our future life.

Further reading and references:

Note: This post is from my blog ‘The not so unbearable lightness of technology’. See the original post in: https://rodmx.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/internet-of/

 

 

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