The Internet of Things – ring any bells? If you’re not a techno-geek, don’t work in Silicon Valley, or for any of the big digital technology firms, the chances are it doesn’t. Yet those in the know are already talking $7 trillion worth of sales by 2020, just five years away.
What is the Internet of Things?
The people said to be behind these ‘Internet of Things’ statistics, are a market intelligence company called IDC. Whoever they are, those in the world of digital technology seem to hang on their every word.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_of_things_signed_by_the_author.jpg By Wilgengebroed on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Internet of Things is about connecting – things. Anything that switches on and off it would appear, can be connected to each other and the internet.
Such mundane household gadgets as coffee makers, toasters, washing machines, refrigerators, lighting, curtain openers, central heating, air conditioning, garage doors and smartphones; the list goes on.
Theoretically these can all be linked. It’s how they’re linked which is causing concerns in many quarters. The whole thing will run on cloud computing, with networks of sensors picking up all the data. ‘Things’ will interact with ‘things’, people will interact with ‘things’ and people will interact with people – sometimes.
Sensors are nothing new. Oil, gas, chemical refineries, and the majority of automated production lines use sensors to open and close valves, and start and stop various processes. But most of those systems are in-house.
Of course, it’s not just our household and kitchen accessories the big players are working on. They’re more concerned with ‘smart’ shipping docks, ‘smart’ logistics depots, ‘smart’ airports, and ‘smart’ cities.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_Nola-Bottom_up.jpg Fabrice de Nola [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
All this cloud stored data will help us reduce our carbon footprint. Monitoring and adjusting energy use of whole cities, reducing power requirements, while improving our waste management. Our washing machines and coffee makers come lower down the list. Or do they?
An internet service provider named Gartner, are estimating around 25 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.
Other interested parties believe that to be an underestimation, and have quadrupled the number, to 100 billion. That’s a lot of coffee makers and garage doors.
No wonder the Internet of things is on everybody’s lips, it’s going to make all our lives easier and help us save the world.
Security Concerns for the Future:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dishwasher_on_the_Internet.jpg By Carlos Paes plus trivial text (File:Dishwasher open for loading.jpg) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons
Today I doubt you will find anybody connected to the internet who truly believes their data is safe. Identification theft is a massive multi-billion dollar industry.
The more devices we have connected to the internet the greater the chance you, or I, could be the next ones to see a depleting bank account or unauthorised card purchases.
The possibility of some mischievous hacker switching your coffee maker off, when you’d kill for a mug of coffee is very real.
Bringing the garage door down, when the bonnet of your new car is still in the driveway, or opening your curtains when you’re on your treadmill, nude – may well seem amusing, but they are all potential breaches of security.
With the increasing number of highly skilled hackers around the world, finding their way into your toaster or washing machine’s software is the first step toward your personal and financial details.
The Bigger Picture is even Worse:
As we move forward in this digital age, and the Internet of Things continues to grow exponentially, what for industry and commerce? Thousands of small, medium, and large businesses will be signing up to the IoT. How secure can they make their systems? The digital age of massive industrial espionage could be just round the corner.
We already know many of the big banks, health insurers, and online retailers have had access gained to hundreds of thousands of customer details, and those are only the ones we’ve been told about.
A little closer to home there was the Trendnet scandal of 2012. Trendnet sold ‘secure’ radio cameras that could be linked to computer and smartphone. Secure cameras ideal for baby watching, pet watching, or early warning of anything unforeseen going on at home.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Radiuino_inicio.jpg By Matheusgvb (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, there was certainly something unforeseen going on. Hackers compromised the system, and videos of playing and sleeping children, and adults doing what adults do, found their way onto the internet.
The company was prosecuted for misrepresenting its software. Yet is any software truly secure?
What about cars, we are in the era of driverless cars, and all the additional technology to make them safe.
But concerns are already being voiced over the management systems of cars which still require a driver. One American lawyer has tabled a lawsuit against General Motors, Toyota and Ford for “failing to address a defect that allows cars to be hacked and control wrestled away from the driver.”
A frightening thought, that you may find yourself in a situation where you suddenly have no control – over the car you are in ‘control’ of.
Other major car producers are also in the firing line due to car security systems which can be hacked by car thieves, and these are cars of today. The idea that I could be walking down the street when a bunch of driverless cars begin to run amok kind of dampens my enthusiasm for a pleasant Sunday morning stroll in the sunshine.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_self-driving_Lexus_SUV_rear_view.jpg By Runner1928 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
How many other large online businesses and government agencies have been hacked, but have kept the information out of the mainstream.
We know for sure there is a 24 hour 365 days a year cyber-war going on between the West and other countries. The greater number of devices reliant on cloud computerisation, the greater the risk to all of us.
Is it possible that just like the race to increase nuclear arms during the cold war bought Russia to the verge of bankruptcy, the digital age could do the same?
Companies and governments spending billions annually on digital security, to neutralise a constant threat from other rogue countries trying to bring them down.
The Internet of Things Working Group:
Discussions on the benefit or otherwise of the Internet of Things, have been ongoing for the last couple of years, and seem set to continue far into the future.
An Online Trust Alliance has been recently set up by an Internet of Things working group, in an effort to establish an agenda for best practises, and ease many of the fears being expressed by all parties.
Dozens of large companies are involved in this trust alliance, including the likes of Target, the large online retailer, Symantec the technology company, and Microsoft. While everyone agrees it is in these companies interest to ensure security is the best it can be, forgive me for being a little sceptical.
As a Microsoft Windows user, I am frequently downloading security patches for my system. What may well be a secure system one day; may not be that secure the next. And what happens if my coffee maker, toaster, washing machine or garage doors need a software security update, do I have to take them to my nearest PC World (City)? There could be a problem with the garage doors!
Many of the recommendations so far have been based on the systems put in place to review consumer protection, security, and privacy, after the bank and health insurer hacking scandals, and involves checking over 1,000 retailers, banks, Insurers, and government agencies.
In fact, earlier this year an Online Trust Audit was carried out for the first time on the websites of the top 50 Internet of Things manufacturers (yes, they’re here already). The result, over 75% failed – things don’t seem to bode well for the future on this showing.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hannover_-_CeBit_2015_-_DT_Industrie_40_-_Roboter_009.jpg Mummelgrummel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As with the industrial and information revolutions before it, the digital revolution will plough on regardless of the increasing number of concerns in all areas.
When those such as Stephen Hawkins, Steve Wozniak of Apple, entrepreneur Elon Musk, and many other scientists, academics, and influential persons in the technology field begin to have reservations about digital devices.
From your driverless cars to ‘smart’ refrigerators, to killer robots, perhaps it’s time to start listening.
There’s no doubt there are many good things to come out of the digital revolution. Doctors can monitor patients without them having to clog up already overcrowded waiting rooms.
Production times and costs in industry and commerce reduced, and a plethora of tools and gadgets to make day to day living easier for all of us.
In the ideal world, where all peoples and nations worked for the common good life would be utopian. Unfortunately, real life isn’t like that.
It would seem, at least on the face of it, that if we truly value our privacy, we need to disconnect from anything to do with the internet. But then how would we survive?
When cash has been made obsolete, we won’t be able to do anything, go anywhere, or buy anything – without using a card.
A British expat who has lived on this Island of Tenerife for over twelve years.A full time freelance writer, most of my time is spent article writing. I also write on D2C, Writedge, and wherever takes my fancy. For fun I try to increase my portfolio of short stories, with a view to eventually getting them published.