Avaya Tech Talk: The ‘Internet of Things’ Needs a Network

In order for the Internet of things to actually do anything, it’s going to need a ‘Network of Things’ to operate upon. If you are going to connect the millions of devices that will need to communicate with each other, a radical shift in the way we deploy networks is going to be required.

Just to support the number of these things will be a monumental task that is beyond our current ability today, but not for long. IPv6 will solve the problem of the number of the number of IP addresses required as the current IPv4 schema won’t carry us too much further into the future. Network connectivity is slated to possibly be the next ”utility service” required to exist, just like power, water, and cable TV. There is a primary difference here though. While definable owners of public utility services exist, and we all know who the Power and Water Companies are, the internet’s network has evolved to be something that is considered by many to ‘just be there’ and potentially free in the public space. Hey, it’s all in the cloud anyway, right?

While I agree that most users understand someone has to pay for the network, who exactly that someone is may not be on customer’s mind as they use the service.

You can think of this like the streetlights downtown. Obviously the power company is not providing that service free of charge. The Township or Municipality most likely pays the bill for it, and that funding is taken from the tax base and is a line item on the budget. Visitors who may be the primary consumers of that service don’t actually contribute directly in the payment of that bill. It is considered to be a normal, expected amenity, similar to pubic water fountains and public bathrooms. While they may not be the nicest places you have ever visited, they are none the less still there and available to the general public.

In today’s connected society a similar model maybe evolving for the Internet. For example, my cable provider in New Jersey happens to provide free Wi-Fi service in public spaces. They also partner with several other cable providers who act as a consortium to pool their resources for their customer’s connectivity capability.

For example, on a recent trip to California I was able to use the outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots from the local cable provider there and establish Internet connectivity free of charge in quite a few public places. I began to wonder if this was so easily possible through a simple peering agreement with the cable providers. How far away are we from a ubiquitous agreement between all carriers? And is the service being provided by the endpoints on their networks free of charge? For those who can’t read between the lines, I’m talking about crowd sourcing the LTE Internet connection on your wireless device on your hip or in your vehicle.

Think about the power outlets at the airport. Just a few short years ago these were a hot commodity. Their locations were secretly hidden, and shared only after giving the proper handshake between passing road warriors.

Today, many airlines are investing in passenger comfort at the gate, which often includes charging stations in the gate areas, and long tables with power strips for plugging in and connecting. The travel industry has realized this was a minimal investment in passenger convenience and comfort that they could market to their base or travelers. They realized that most travelers today have several devices that need recharging before their long flight, and if you are traveling with a family that can easily add up to 10 or more devices. Having a place to connect and recharge is a nice amenity that makes their airline more appealing, at a minimal cost of investment.

Another example in airports is the open and free Wi-Fi coverage commonly available. Where it was difficult to find at all, let alone find it free, just a few years ago it’s available in many major airports today. This is typically through the airport authority itself, or taken care of by the presence of several local retail vendors like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to name a few of the more common entities that consider this a customer amenity that drives business.

We have already acknowledged that the next big technology in wireless connectivity (from a cellular perspective) is the 4G LTE technology. If you have a newer cell phone, and your carrier supports LTE, you already know the incredible speeds that can be delivered. In fact, I find myself tethering my laptop to my phone more often than searching for a hotspot that has decent bandwidth and throughput.

It was this practice that got me thinking. What if we were to take all of the LTE enabled devices that existed, consolidate them into one fabric backbone network, and then share that network with the Internet of Things? We would effectively create the Backbone of Things, or crowd sourced Internet.

Connectivity would become as ubiquitous as the electric in the wall sockets in a public place, drinking fountains and bathrooms. Does anyone still remember the pay toilet? Do they even still exist anywhere? Or have they gone the way of the pay phone?

This might just work, and I challenge those who may know better to come up with some flaws in my master plan for world domination and open access.

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