Uh Oh, No More New IPv4 Addresses...What's The Impact On The "Internet of Things (IoT)"?

On February 4, 2011, the last IPv4 addresses were allocated, according to the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that oversees addressing for the Internet. There’s been much commentary about the impact this will have on Internet communications in general and the “Internet of Things (IoT)” in particular. The prevailing sentiment in the blogosphere seems to be that we are under-prepared for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. With some estimates for the total potential number of connected machines and devices ranging up to 50 billion by the end of this decade (e.g. Ericsson’s “50 Billion Things” initiative) the fear is that the IoT could be seriously crippled before it even comes to full fruition.

ABI Research is more sanguine about the continuing addressability of IP-connected devices over both the short- and long-term. The issue is really comprised of two parts: first, the continuing availability of IP-based addresses, and, second, the practical requirement for IP-based addresses for IoT applications.

In the first instance, several “fixes” – such as dynamic IP and network address translation (NAT) – serve now to increase the number of devices addressable by the same IP address. Likewise, IPv6 is already becoming deeply embedded in Wireless Sensor Networking (WSN) standards, by way of IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN).
In the second case, the need for IP addressing in many IoT applications is, currently, limited. For example, in an RFID application, only the local RFID reader would be IP-addressable, and would serve as a gateway for data collected from its co-located RFID-tagged items.
The Internet of Things is going to be just fine.