Do You Know Who Your Refrigerator is Talking To?

In my last post, we discussed the inroads that IPv6 has been making in our packet-switched internetworks. And, although IPv6 is only in its infancy in terms of general worldwide deployment, certain business sectors are combining the vast numbers of IP addresses now available with other new technologies that are also under development. As a CCNA, you need to be aware of these newly developing areas of opportunity.

Keep in mind that IPv4 only provides an addressing capability of about 4 billion IP addresses, whereas IPv6 supports 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. And, in the time it took me to type in that long string of numbers, you could have plugged your refrigerator, which is Internet-ready with an IPv6 address, into a wall socket in the kitchen. Then, by default, your refrigerator will log into the manufacturer’s server over the Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) network.

Science fiction? Nope, science fact.

BPL is a system for carrying data on a conductor that is also being used for electric power transmission. This new process provides access to the Internet by sending information-bearing signals over the power lines coming into your home or business. Most BPL technologies are limited to one set of wires, but some can cross over between two levels, such as both the distribution network and the premises wiring.

However, all power-line communications systems operate by applying a modulated carrier signal onto the wiring system. Different types of BPL systems use different frequency bands, depending on the signal transmission characteristics of the power wiring being used. One of the most significant engineering challenges facing the implementation of BPL to every home is that the installed base of existing wiring systems was originally intended for transmitting AC power. As such, they have only a limited ability to carry the higher frequencies needed to pass data.

The bottom line is that with the BPL system, any computer, or any other device equipped for Internet access, would only need to plug a BPL “modem” into any outlet in an equipped building to have high-speed Internet Access. Many manufacturers have already equipped their products with these features, along with an IPv6 address, and are just waiting for this new Internet access to become available to consumers.

And, if you think about it, BPL capabilities offer many benefits over the use of regular cable or DSL connectivity. In many rural areas, there is still no cable or DSL service available. However, the extensive power delivery infrastructure already in place would allow people in remote locations access to the Internet, with relatively little equipment investment by both the power utility or the customer.

In many areas of the United States, BPL is already installed and available to people who have power to their homes. Manassas, VA, is the first city in the world to have BPL deployed to all its residents, and has been a demonstration center for utilities, integrators/operators, and government entities from around the globe. In July 2008, the cost for BPL services was pegged at $28.95 per month, however, it is projected to come down.

In addition, in November 2008, IBM announced that it had signed a $9.6 million deal with International Broadband Electric Communications (IBEC) to install equipment and provide BPL service to almost 350,000 homes in Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The lawmakers in Washington have made research and deployment of BPL a major goal of our communications industry. Congress has included provisions and funding in the recently enacted “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:.

Because IPv6 is only in its infancy in terms of worldwide deployment, and the BPL technology and installations are a work in progress, it is obvious there are huge opportunities for people who have the skill sets inherent in the CCNA certification process. And, with your CCNA in hand, you are at the gateway of an entirely new career challenge.

Say “hello” to your washer and dryer for me. They’ll soon be on the Web.

Author: David Stahl

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