NAB: Cerf says Internet will be everywhere

Despite the recent 'dot-bomb' trend, the Internet is still growing at an 80% annual pace, says the man who helped build the Net, Vint Cerf.

          Despite the recent "dot-bomb" trend, the Internet is still growing at an 80% annual pace, says the man who helped build the Net, Vint Cerf.

          Cerf, a senior vice president at WorldCom, took a stab at what the Internet could look like in the future during his keynote at the National Association of Broadcasters convention here.

          "When [fellow Internet pioneer] Bob Kahn and I were working on what is now IP (Internet protocol), we knew there would be new technologies that would come along that uses the network, we just didn't know what," Cerf says. "We just tried to make the simplest transport layer possible so the Internet could run on any network."

          Today, the Internet does run just about everywhere, with Cerf saying he would like to make a T-shirt that reads: "IP Everywhere."

          "We're seeing IP sneak into places that would not normally be associated with IP," Cerf says. For broadcasters, the Internet could lead to another source of revenue as they embed IP data into their Digital TV signals and cable networks. These embedded IP streams could deliver videos, games and e-commerce applications to households via the airwaves.

          Though the population of the Internet is growing, Cerf says that 80% of users are still connected at dial-up speeds. This is not good for those that want to deliver high-quality video to the masses, which requires about 400K bit/s of bandwidth.

          Not only are humans coming online at a rapid rate, but machines as well. Cerf says companies are developing IP-enabled refrigerators and other household appliances that can all talk to one another and be managed from the Internet. "Of course, this means the need for more security because you don't want your neighbor's 15-year-old reprogramming the house while you're on vacation," Cerf says.

          As more devices become Internet-enabled, the more cross-services can be offered to the consumer. Refrigerators could e-mail their owners to tell them to buy milk, for instance. They could also search the 'Net for recipes that can be made with the contents inside the refrigerator and present the list to the owner at dinner.

          "It could be bad, though, if you're Internet-enabled scale and refrigerator could talk," Cerf joked. "All of a sudden your fridge might not open because you're on a diet."

          The view of the Internet as an Earth-bound technology will change over the next decade as well. Cerf, in conjunction with the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), has developed a prototype protocol for an Interplanetary Internet that could relay data through the heavens. The first implementation of the protocol is scheduled to be launched on two Mars rovers in 2003.

          Because of 10- to 40-minute latencies in communication between Earth and Mars, the prototype protocols look nothing like TCP/IP.

          "The idea is that new missions will be able to take advantage of assets left behind by previous missions," Cerf says. "Over time, there could be a two-planet Internet."

          The main message Cerf left for his audience: "There's an Internet in the future - resistance is futile."

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