It sounds like just the kind of technology you will need in the age of renewed interest in space travel. It’s the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), an emerging and evolving technology that rethinks how data is captured, named, stored, secured, retrieved and used.

The first thing you need to know is that it has nothing to do with actual planets, neither in our solar system nor anywhere in the known universe. It’s all still Earth-based.

Its name is actually more descriptive of the way the files would reside in a distributed network of computers, which could be pictured as planets revolving around a centrally located star. The star in this analogy is where we the users would be located.

Why would we need IPFS, and how will 5G play into how organizations consider adopting this new file and data sharing approach that could be described as downright radical?

The roots of IPFS

IPFS, an open-source project, grew out of multiple predecessor technologies such as distributed hash tables, BitTorrent and Git. It was inspired by these technologies to provide an enhanced solution for hypermedia data sharing, the basis for blockchain and hyperledger technologies.

It involves storing data on hundreds or thousands of connected computers, each of which sends you a piece of the information you seek when you need it. No one machine has everything; there are many sources involved in everything you store and share. It is the same decentralized database and data store principle involved in blockchain (with a notable exception that in a Bitcoin blockchain every database is exactly alike, and distributed). The IPFS system was designed to speed things up “between planets” while ensuring security, increasing efficiencies, and maintaining immutability.

It is the polar opposite of centralized client-server models. It dovetails with the hyperledger model that we have talked about before, in which enterprises can safely and securely give access to their key data to those who can use it effectively – supply chain partners, for instance. The data owner enables use of the data without giving it away, ensuring that the data remains immutable and trustworthy.

Where 5G fits in

To understand how 5G will impact or be impacted by IPFS, consider Web 3.0. Also known as the Semantic Web, Web 3.0 would supplant the current internet infrastructure. It is where all data and information would be sorted and stored in highly decentralized ways that make it easy for both humans and computers to use.

This new concept of data, in whatever forms it takes – personal, financial, environmental or something else – will power new economic models that are yet to be fully conceived. Which is also the promise of 5G.

Distributed ledger technology is considered by many the core building block of Web 3.0. In the same way, IPFS allows for distributed storage of data that is immune to altering and forgery.

With an architecture such as this, all of the machines “out there” in the IPFS galaxy must be able to transport their portions of the data to your organization instantly as you need it. If it takes you longer to obtain information than it does with current models, you won’t touch it.

That’s where 5G is so important. It speeds up the velocity at which data is created and moved, offering greater coverage, capacity and speeds.

Next steps

As with any new technology, many iterations of testing and trials will be required. IPFS is a new concept and one that is undergoing continuous development. The challenges to mass adoption are clear and are being addressed.

Bandwidth requirements, availability, privacy and security are all top of mind as the proponents of IPFS advance it as a critical technology for the future distributed internet, an internet that truly leverages 5G.

At this point, the important thing is to be aware of IPFS and to work on better understanding this as a network-based solution. It’s still a bit early to be thinking about proof of concepts or small-scale trials.

Our advice is to begin your independent research into IPFS and the range of ledger technologies that could streamline the way your business operates, and to work with your service provider to determine ways that IPFS will eventually be of value to you.