We're just about to go through a complete renumbering of the Internet, and I think some marketing issues and opportunities will emerge along the way.
The way the Internet works today means that just less than 4.3 billion different Internet devices can be addressed uniquely... an address being just that, the unique identifier stating where packets of information are sent from and where they should go. So just as my work address is Building 5, 50 Brook Green, London, W6 7BJ, UK - a unique address at which I'm sure to receive anything you send me - my current IP address at this Boston hotel is 22.214.171.124.
I know that because I just visited www.whatismyip.com and they looked at the server I was connected to, grabbed the address and stuck it on their homepage for me. Try it.
Whilst 4.3 billion addresses sounds a heck of a lot, it's actually less than 1 per person on Earth. For this and other reasons, many devices connect to the Internet through a proxy - a bit like the mailroom at college or at work where the college or workplace has one address known to the postman, but where they've created another addressing system within the organisation, namely your room number or department. For those interested in the jargon, this is known as network address translation, or NAT for short.
This Internet addressing system is known as Internet Protocol version 4 (or IPv4 for short) and harks back to 1981. Back then I guess it was difficult to forsee how big this Internet thing was going to get. There were few computers by today's standards, and the whole idea of a PC (known then as IBM PC Compatible) was just starting the same year. Laptops, palmtops, smartphones, mobile Internet devices, Playstations, IP phones, Internet clocks, ambient devices, IP sensors. Many of these simply weren't envisaged.
Introducing Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6 for short (don't ask about IPv5... that was something else altogether!). Now this new addressing system isn't going to run short of addresses anytime soon, or perhaps that's what they said in 1981?! IPv6 has so many addresses that each of the 6 billion people on the planet could have 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them, which is quite a large number.
IPv6, and a powerful combination of other trends such as low cost computing and miniaturisation, means that everything we interact with could be addressable. It doesn't necessarily have to be permanently powered, but may be powered up on an ad hoc basis (like ZigBee - little sensors that mesh together and communicate only when they have something to say), or just when it's in range of an inductive power source (like passive RFID tags - currently being used in supply chains to identify and track pallets and boxes).
So enough of the tech, how's this going to impact marketing and customer service? Here's some ideas...
Your BMW has 400 sensors, each addressable and communicating back to base. BMW determines that your tyre pressure is a little low for the typical weight you carry and recommends a couple of extra pounds per square inch. Moreover, they can determine from your driving style that the upcoming 25 series is everything you look for in a car, and they can let you know why exactly.
Zara is offering a new service - a personal wardrobe stylist. Buy three items from their Autumn range and receive a Zara branded RFID wand that communicates back to their servers. Simply get dressed and wave the wand to see if the combination you've gone for is the height of current fashion, or a mishmash you'd have beaten simply at random. It doesn't have to be all Zara clothes as everything you've bought since 2014 has its own unique identifier. Missing that accessory to set off the whole look? Zara same day delivery saves the day.
Lighting can make any room, or break it. The team at mydeco.com knows this. It was back in 2008 that their original 3D room planner went live, a remarkable feat of product cataloguing and on-screen rendering to help assure the successful outcome of any redecoration. Now, ten years later, their service can collect the information from the uniquely addressable sensors integrated into your new furniture, and gain an accurate appreciation of ambient noise levels, temperature, wear and tear, and that all so important lighting. The cushion on the sofa vibrates gently to let you know they've generated some new ideas for you to take a look at next time you want to drop onto their website.