IPv6 has become a hot topic again with a variety of articles, blogs, and
media coverage both inside and outside the AV industry. I say “again”
because the Internet Engineering Task Force initiated the design and development
of IPv6 in 1994 and published the basic protocol 18 years ago.
Since that time, deployments
have been going on in
the background globally.
For example, U.S. federal
agencies have been
preparing since 2005 with multiple IPv6 mandates,
including the upgrade of their network backbone by
2008, the upgrade of their public-facing websites by
2012, and the next approaching deadline to upgrade
all internal client applications by September 30, 2014.
Many hardware and software vendors have simultaneously
been working to implement IPv6 support. All
major operating systems in use on personal computers
and server systems had production-quality IPv6
implementations by 2011.
So, a little background, if you have not taken the
time to explore IPv6. IPv4, the first deployed version
of IP address system, was developed in 1981 and
utilized 32-bit addresses. At the time no one really
thought that we would need more than the 4.3 billion
unique IP addresses it provided, but as the old saying
goes, never say never. With the rapid rise in quantity
of users and devices, it wasn’t long before it became
exceedingly clear that we would run out of unique IP
addresses. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address that expands
the number to 2128 (that’s the number 34 with thirtyseven
zeros after it!).
So what is driving the latest flurry of media
coverage of IPv6? I believe there are three key
First is that the American Registry of Internet
Numbers (ARIN) entered phase four of IPv4
exhaustion on April 23, 2014. Of course this wasn’t
the first region to exhaust their allocation—Asia
Pacific ran out on April 15, 2011, and Europe, Middle
East, and parts of central Asia ran out September 14,
2012. Latin America will run out sometime this year,
and Africa will probably have a couple of years before
they run out.
The second driver is that the world population
continues to grow (currently 7.2 billion) as well as
the global internet population. Asia Pacific is a prime
example. The region is home to around 4.2 billion
people with an internet penetration of roughly 26
percent, meaning there are still as many as three
billion people in that region who may connect;
three billion people in a region that ran out if IPv4
addresses in 2011.
The third and most important driver in my mind
is the growth in active cellular devices, which are
expected to exceed the world population this year.
Having read a variety of articles on the topic, it
appears that many in the AV industry believe that
now is not the time to wade into the shallow end
of the IPv6 pool. The reasons given seemed logical,
like most AV systems sit on the private network and
don’t need to connect directly to the internet, and the
cost to implement dual stacks (IPv4/v6) will require
resources and could affect the unit cost. Some are
even saying that AV equipment will be the last to
change to IPv6.
Sorry, I respectfully disagree, but probably not for
the reason you might think. When I was describing
the third driver above, I used the term ‘cellular
devices’ rather than ‘cell phones,’ and this is the area
that I believe will open huge areas of opportunity for
the AV industry and the need to implement IPv6.
Remember IBM’s Watson that competed on
the quiz show Jeopardy in 2011? IBM announced
early this year that they were investing $1 billion
to establish a new business unit for Watson. Guess
what, it’s not because IBM thinks there is a future in
winning game shows. It’s because they believe there
is a business model where Watson’s ability to quickly
analyze and interpret LARGE amounts of data can
drive new consumer and enterprise applications via
the cloud. Watson needs data to make that business
model work and a lot of that data will come from
connected wireless modules built into devices.
Now, think about the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT is becoming a reality due to today’s wireless
connectivity, cheaper/faster processors, and
improved sensors. The driver of IoT is the desire to
bring additional value and differentiation to products
and services. This will create huge disruption in many
existing markets and with huge disruptions come new
opportunities in traditional markets (think NEST).
Keep an open mind to new technologies and their
potential applications. Think about challenges that
your customers are dealing with and explore new
technologies that might provide a solution. I really hope
that the AV industry isn’t the last to embrace IPv6 and
the possibilities that come with it. If so, there just might
not be many opportunities left.
R. Randal Riebe (email@example.com) is the director of AV
integrator business development at
AV Apps in a Wireless Module World
The other reason that I said “again”
in the opening sentence is because
I wrote an article on IPv6 for SCN
back in 2006 entitled “IP Next
Generation”. It was more education
focused versus opportunity focused
than this column.
Since the writing of that piece,
IPv6 has become a reality and new
technologies like wireless modules
have come to market that expand the
possibilities of new opportunities for
AV equipment manufacturers and
integrators. Thinking about products
first, I believe there are huge
opportunities in device monitoring
and management off the “corporate
LAN”. This could be used for
determining product status, utilization
data, and predictive as well as
remote maintenance services, and
manufacturers could offer this data
through the reseller.
The residential home automation
market is already seeing diversity
in business models and applications
due to connected devices. It has
expanded from the dealer channel
to include service provider offerings
and retail products like NEST. We
will also see similar new applications
and opportunities on the commercial
side of the business. For the reseller
there will be huge opportunities on
the services management side including
enterprise, healthcare, and digital
The AV industry was built by
creative thinkers. Be creative.