IPv6 potential for green buildings

The Internet started back in 1969 with ArpaNET. In 1981, the Internet adopted the Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), and was opened to the public a few years latter. Since then the Internet has grown on the same protocol version (IPv4). In 1993, the Internet Engineering Task Force started to work on a new protocol: Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). The IPv6 standardisation was finished in 1998. The following year, its deployment has started in Asia, followed by the US and Europe. IPv6 will deeply impact the Future Internet,- as underlined by the EC Communication on IPv6 , and the OECD Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Internet .

The current 4 billion IPv4 addresses are almost exhausted , - making the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 ineluctable. IPv6 is already integrated into the recent releases of Microsoft and Linux OS, as well as in all professional Cisco routers. The global Internet backbones and the top domain names servers are IPv6 compatibles too, and ready for the transition.

Most IPv4 addresses are in the hands of US and European owners, which explains the leading role of Asian countries in the promotion of IPv6. Japan and South Korea have massively promoted IPv6 since 2000, with already many ISPs providing IPv6 connectivity. All Chinese universities are connected through IPv6, and at the 2008 Olympic Games, China has showcased networks of video cameras and street lights turned into communicating IPv6 devices. The US administration and the Department of Defence require from their suppliers to be IPv6 compliant. The European Commission considers IPv6 as a strategic priority and has repeatedly invited its member states to accelerate their transition to the new protocol. The current European research programme states that "research projects funded by Framework Programme 7 and facing a choice of computer network protocol are encouraged to utilise IPv6 whenever possible" ).

IPv6 brings several advantages, including:

  • An almost unlimited scalability with a very large IPv6 address space (2128 addresses), instead of the 232 IPv4 addresses, enabling to provide permanent IP addresses to each and every device.
  • Address self-configuration mechanisms, easing the deployment.
  • Improved security and authentication features, such as mandatory IPSec capacities and the possibility to use of the address space to include encryption keys.
  • Peer-to-peer connectivity, solving the NAT barrier with specific and permanent IP addresses for any device and/or user of the Internet.
  • Mobility features, enabling a seamless connexion when moving from one access point to another access point on the Internet.
  • Multi cast and any cast functionalities.

IPv6 will provide an easier remote interaction with each and every device with a direct integration to the Internet. In other words, IPv6 will make possible to move from a network of servers, to a network of things.

IPv6 and Intelligent buildings

By enabling the extension of the Internet to any device, IPv6 will also turn buildings into smarter and more interconnected environments. Buildings have been identified by the European Commission as one of the main application domains for the future Internet of things ). Progresses in nanotechnology enable more and more pervasive intelligence and ICT solutions to be deployed. Improving the Internet of things in homes can contribute to save energy, increase comfort and security, and support elder people - with important related markets opportunities.

IPv6 can bring several advantages for smart buildings. IPv6 can:

  • Increase the granularity of building control and monitoring, by addressing each and every sensor, device and actuator with its own IP address.
  • Ease the deployment of automated devices, with the self-configuration of the IP addresses.
  • Improve security of the connectivity to the devices, in particular for remote control.

IPv6 constitutes a great opportunity and a new frontier for smart and green buildings. Two initiatives illustrate this potential:

Mandat International, together with academic and industrial partners, plan to develop a fully Smart IPv6 building in Geneva, in the frame of the International Cooperation House project. This project will serve to support delegates from developing countries attending UN conferences and will benefit from a high visibility. It is an opportunity to explore, to showcase and to pave the way to innovative forms of interactions, by exploiting the full potential of IPv6. The project also intends to use this IPv6 environment to make the building smarter and to improve its energy efficiency and CO2 saving by at least 25% compared to other constructions with similar envelopes and insulations.

Buildings are traditionally heterogeneous and fragmented environments, gathering all sorts of smart things. The Universal Device Gateway  ) uses IPv6 to integrate and to interconnect heterogeneous subsystems using different communication protocols and standards into a shared semantic framework. It paves the way to new forms of interactions, by enabling heterogeneous devices such as mobile phones, RFID tags, ZigBee sensors, KNX actuators and DLNA screens to interact with each others. It will transform buildings into smarter, more integrated and "user-friendly" environments.

COM/2008/0313 final - Advancing the Internet : action plan for the deployment of IPv6 in Europe
Adopted by the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, Seoul Korea, 18 June 2008
A dynamic monitoring of the attribution of the last IPv4 address blocks is available on www.potaroo.net/tools/ipv4/index.html
Work Programme ICT - Information and Communications Technologies, page 10
Internet of Things, Strategic Research Roadmap, September 15 2009, page 14
Research project developed by a consortium made of the University for Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Mandat International, Archimede Solutions and Smart Home: www.devicegateway.com