Why should the Internet of Things care about IPv6? Many answers can be given to such question, and thus, there are several arguments that show IPv6 will be (and actually it is already) a key enabler for the future Internet of Things:
- Adoption is just a matter of time
The Internet Protocol is a must and a requirement for any Internet connection. It is the addressing scheme for any data transfer on the web. The limited size of its predecessor, IPv4, has made the transition to IPv6 unavoidable. The Google’s figures are revealing an IPv6 adoption rate following an exponential curve, doubling every 9 months about.
IPv6 offers a highly scalable address scheme. It provides 2128 unique addresses, which represents 3.4 × 1038 addresses. In other words, more than 2 Billions of Billions addresses per square millimetre of the Earth surface. It is quite sufficient to address the needs of any present and future communicating device.
- Solving the NAT barrier
Due to the limits of the IPv4 address space, the current Internet had to adopt a trick to face its unplanned expansion: the Network Address Translation (NAT). It enables several users and devices to share the same public IP address. This solution is working but with two main trades-off:
- The NAT users are borrowing and sharing IP addresses with others. Hence, they do not have their own public IP address, which turns them into homeless Internet users. They can access the Internet, but they cannot be directly accessed from the Internet.
- It breaks the original end-to-end connection and dramatically weakens any authentication process.
- Strong Security enablers
IPv6 provides end-to-end connectivity, with a more distributed routing mechanism. Moreover IPv6 is supported by a very large community of users and researchers supporting an on-going improvement of its security features, including IPSec.
- Tiny stacks available
IPv6 application to the Internet of Things has been being researched since many years. The research community has developed a compressed version of IPv6 named 6LoWPAN. It is a simple and efficient mechanism to shorten the IPv6 address size for constrained devices, while border routers can translate those compressed addresses into regular IPv6 addresses. In parallel, tiny stacks have been developed, such as Contiki, which takes no more than 11.5 Kbyte.
- Enabling the extension of the Internet to the web of things
Thanks to its large address space, IPv6 enables the extension of the Internet to any device and service. Experiments have demonstrated the successful use of IPv6 addresses to large scale deployments of sensors in smart buildings, smart cities and even with cattle. Moreover, the CoAP protocol enables the constrained devices to behave as web services easily accessible and fully compliant with REST architecture.
IPv6 provides strong features and solutions to support mobility of end-nodes, as well as mobility of the routing nodes of the network.
- Address self-configuration
IPv6 provides an address self-configuration mechanism (Stateless mechanism). The nodes can define their addresses in very autonomous manner. This enables to reduce drastically the configuration effort and cost.
- Fully Internet compliant
IPv6 is fully Internet compliant. In other words, it is possible to use a global network to develop one’s own network of smart things or to interconnect one’s own smart things with the rest of the World.