What is an IP address?

An IP address is related to the Internet and is a concept which many internet users are likely to be aware of, especially as knowledge of the Internet has grown considerable in recent years.
IP stand for Internet Protocol and forms the phrase IP address. The IP address can be seen as a label, often made up of numerical values, which is provided to devices such as computers and smart phones which are in active use on a network. The IP address allows participation on a network which then allows communication with the Internet. The main purposes are to be a source of identification for authentication purposes and to provide a location address.
The first IP addresses were designed and generated as 32 bit numbers, provided with the name Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPV4),this is still used today, although technological advances has meant changes have had to be made. A new system, IPV6, which uses 128 bits, was developed in 1998 to cope with these advances in technology.
An IP address is presented as a series of numbers such as 1234.12.123.123, although the actually stored as binary numbers, which means they are unreadable.
One major development which meant advances were required in the technology was the increasing use of home private networks. The main threat to IPV4 was the matter that the number of IP addresses available would be exhausted. Due to this, IP addresses were created and set aside for private network users to use.
There is an organisation that operates and manages the allocation of IP addresses; this is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). This organisation manages IP addresses globally and not just within the UK. IP addresses are assigned to a host either when a computer is started or permanently through configuration of hardware or software.
It is hoped that the IP version 6 addresses will be sufficient for many years to come, although this may depend on how far technology advances. All new modern desktop computers and server systems operate using IPV6, although IPV6 is not used by the majority of home routers, this is something which is likely to develop in the near future.
One issue surrounding private home networks and routers relates to the security aspect. Recently the British media and press have highlighted that many home networks are not secure and that these can be accessed by anybody. This highlights a major problem for anyone who has not secured their network, for many reasons. Anybody who accesses someone network, can use their internet connection, and gain their IP address and potentially gather details including bank details. This quite clearly shows that more must be done on advising people to secure their networks. IP addresses in the future may offer extra security setting which makes networks automatically private and secure.