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Vint Cerf: ‘Internet of things’ upon us

One of the fathers of the Internet, Vinton Cerf, recently said that the so-called “Internet of things” is “already upon us.”

“One expects tens of billions of devices to be part of the Internet environment,” Cerf said in a virtual keynote for alumni of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani campus, before offering a wide-ranging description of what that IoT will look like. “Many of them will be things that we have at home, appliances, things in the office, things in the car and the car itself, and things that we wear or carry around on our person. All of these devices will be part of a vast and interconnected Internet.”

Cerf is widely recognized as one of the founders and developers of the Internet during his time at DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He and colleague Bob Kahn both received the U.S. National Medal of Technology for their work on the nascent Internet. Cerf has been working for Google as vice president and chief Internet evangelist since 2005, and is “responsible for identifying new enabling technologies and applications on the Internet and other platforms for the company,” according to his company bio.

Cerf also noted that the basic design of TCP/IP protocols (which he co-designed) is a peer-to-peer communication design, rather than client-server. He added that “when you create standards for peer-to-peer communication, you also create an opportunity to intervene and provide third party services, so these standardized platforms that will accept control under appropriate circumstances and report status, can be managed by third party systems — and this gives an opportunity for new businesses to form around the management of devices all around the network.”

Cerf said that such a system could involve security, environmental control, entertainment or office systems. He also warned that because of the enormous amounts of digital content that are being created every day, the preservation of software and operating systems is necessary so that data isn’t lost to technology evolution.

“If we don’t find a way to overcome intellectual property issues, technical issues about preserving software for long periods of time, preserving operating systems and maybe even the ability to emulate the hardware that the operating systems ran on — if we don’t do those things, we may very well find that our history begins to evaporate over time because the software that interprets the digital content is no longer available,” Cerf said.

Cerf said in addition that colleagues at multiple space laboratories have been working to develop protocols called Delay and Disruption Tolerant Networking Protocols that “can overcome the vast distances and disruption of communication in space.” DTN, or delay-tolerant networking, has been a recent focus of DARPA funding and DARPA has its own disruption tolerant networking group. The Internet Research Task Force also has a Delay Tolerant Networking Research Group.

While Cerf addressed the Internet of Things and digital preservation of the past, Dr. Harsh Verma suggested that experts look at new research ideas for the Internet of Things, in the multiple directions laid out by Vint in his keynote. Verma is vice president of global innovative research at R Systems and an advisor for the newly-formed Forum for Internet of Things in Sacramento, Calif.

Verma noted that ABI Research has predicted that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the IoT by 2020.



Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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