What the Exhaustion of the IPv4 Space Means for the Meetings Industry

The recent exhaustion of IPv4 addresses represents a tipping point in the internet era and should be of particular interest to the event industry. Its depletion, inevitable with the sheer number of connected devices, is ushering in the rise of a new standard to accommodate everything ranging from computers and mobile devices to watches and cars.

The introduction of IPv6, while far from seamless, ensures the number of unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses available to Internet-connected devices remains virtually unlimited. Understanding the concept of IP and the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is thus vital for event planners and organizers to ensure their meetings and conferences are better positioned in the coming years.

Internet Protocol Explained

A device’s Internet Protocol, or IP, is a unique address—much like a street address—enabling other computers and connected devices to find and deliver information to the right place. IPv4 addresses, still the most common, are a sequence of four numbers separated by periods (e.g., 192.77.62.1). Whether the address is IPv4 or IPv6, these unique string of numbers enables relationships from your computer finding your printer to your smartphone communicating to a connected security system at home.

On a bigger scale, IP addresses are associated with major internet companies like Amazon.com and also connect devices in the medical and event industries. Every person or industry with access to the internet is using Internet Protocol.

IPv4’s Depletion

The advent of IPv4, or the fourth revision of IP addresses, occurred in 1981 at a time when the rise of smartwatches and the host of other connected devices in the 21st century were decades from being a reality. Given most houses didn’t even have a desktop computer, the 4.3 billion addresses available under IPv4 seemed more than sufficient. A boom in personal computer usage, followed by mobile devices and recently a fully connected world with baby monitors, thermostats, and more, simply depleted the number of available IPv4 addresses at an unexpected rate.

The Introduction of IPv6

The depletion of IPv4 addresses, recognized in the early 1990s, triggered the development of IPv6. The new standard, which uses 128 bits for its internet addresses, is set to replace the older 32-bit IPv4 technology and increases available IP addresses by exponential levels. While IPv6 has been available since 1999, adoption rates have been slow. Older devices weren’t equipped to make the switch, but most devices today are capable of making a transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

The obstacles are both real and perceived; asking your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to make the switch can be easy, but larger entities often host their own services and changing the backend is more daunting. Regardless of an organization’s situation, though, the switchover to IPv6 is a looming inevitability and ensures maximum connectivity moving forward.

What It Means for the Event Industry

Modern events rely on a significant number of connected devices. IPv6 supports new services, increases security, and seen as a more efficient option to the outdated IPv4. In a nutshell, IPv6 is driving a more robust and powerful Internet. Event organizers and planners should consider both the benefits and logistics of transitioning to IPv6 to future-proof their events and keep pace with our increasingly connected landscape.

Author: Matt Milloway