China’s Got a New Internet

A recent issue of CIO magazine reported that engineers in China are busy working on a project that the Chinese government has already invested close to $200 million toward. It’s the China’s Next Generation Internet (CNGI), a faster, more secure, more mobile version of the current Internet, which the country’ plans to unveil at the 2008 Olympics.

Back in 1983 when the Department of Defense used the Internet to connect a select group of academics and researchers, it adopted an addressing system, IPv4, so that computers connected to the Internet could each have a unique identity for recognizing and communicating with each other. The addressing scheme uses a series of four decimal values, each of which can be a number from 0 to 255 (also known as 32-bit addressing). That provides a total of 4.3 billion possible addresses, which seemed like plenty in 1976 when computer engineers Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn (and, oh yes, Al Gore) developed IPv4. IPv6 solves the address shortage by increasing the number of bits from 32 to 128, resulting in a near infinite number of combinations.

The innovation potential provided by IPv6 is enormous. Any device, from a cell phone, to a streetlight, to a household thermostat, can have its own unique position on the Internet and be connected all the time! Utility companies will be able to read meters remotely over the Internet. Consumers parked outside a grocery store will be able to download shopping lists from their Internet-connected refrigerators to their BlackBerry devices.

Since every computer will have its own permanent IP address, users will be able to authenticate the source of e-mails or other requests, providing the means to track messages and thwart today’s hacking, spam and phishing schemes.

Okay, here’s the Buzz Kill: Companies that wait until demand for IPv6 services emerges – from overseas business partners for instance – could face a massive onetime expense hit in the ballpark of what it cost to fix the Y2K problem. So let’s get going on this right now!

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