Internet of Things and the PBX
Honestly, I don’t like those blurry terms like Unified Communications where nobody can exactly say what they actually mean. Internet of Things or Internet of Everything is one of them. Here are some thoughts from my side of what it could mean and especially on how those devices can be addressed.
A few years ago when I learned about the advantages of IPv6, I thought that this would be the ticket for the Internet of Everything. I don’t remember who had the idea, but someone said that everything can have an IP address, even things that don’t even have a microprocessor or anything electronic. For example instead of printing those old-fashioned barcodes on yogurt it would be cool to have a 2D IPv6 address on the cup. Then we could define events for this address like “onProduce”, “onPurchase” or “onDispose” and trigger certain actions for them.
While this is a cool idea, I am afraid the reality will look different. First of all, the enthusiasm about IPv6 is pretty much gone at least in my world. Instead, it seems a lot more pragmatic to just choose a URL instead of a numeric address. Why not encode http://abc-yogurt.com/item/0234523523 in that 2D code instead of a number that nobody understands anyway? Or just skip it all and use the stuff what we already have? When we introduced the Vodia mini PBX, we had to allocate an UPC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Product_Code is an interesting reading on this subject). Why not map it to an URL? That seems to be a lot easier than to come up with something completely new. On the other hand, the UPC seems to be unsuitable for an individual tag. It is even not possible to have the expiry date machine readable, which sounds like a major point that needs to be improved. Then we have the size of the label. While the old labels required a lot of real estate on the package, new labels can be a lot smaller and they can be 2D. Why not using watermarking technology and have several kilobytes in a label? There is no need to see the pixel with a human eye.
Then there is another number system for the internet of things that we should not forget: The telephone number. I don’t get tired telling people that there are more telephone numbers in the USA than there are IPv4 addresses in the world. Although this is not the point; extensions are a well-understood way of extending the address space easily. If you have a motor for the shutters in your house, why not just call them up? Telephones are still the most widely available devices on the planet, and everybody understands how to dial a number. When you are at home, why not using your cordless phone to dial the “extension” of your shutter, door, light and so on? Here is where the PBX steps in: It can translate a telephone call into a HTTP URL and trigger the actions that have been programmed. We have recently added something to the auto attendant that can do that, and even much more.
At the end of the day, we will have a mix of everything. The shutter controller will have an IPv4 address, it will have an IPv6 address, it will have a UPC and a serial number, and it will be possible to control it with a phone number.