The Internet of Things is a system of interrelated computing devices, digital machines, or objects with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without human interaction. A thing in the Internet of Things can be any natural or artificial object with an Internet Protocol address and the ability to transfer data over a network.
Internet Protocol Version 6, an important factor in the development of the Internet of Things, now has enough address space for everything on earth. Practical applications of Internet of Things technology are already in many agricultural, building management, health care, energy, and transportation industries
The Internet of Things is about inter-machine communication built on cloud computing and networks of data-collecting sensors. The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors that transmit and machines that collect and apply data.
The Internet of Things uses cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit data from the sensors. In 2007, a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis when its steel plates failed under heavy load. Rebuilt, the bridge now has cement with sensors to monitor for and report cracks and fissures from stresses.
Reasons for Optimism
When ice is on the bridge, the sensors in the cement detect and signal to cars over the wireless Internet data of its presence. The cars then alert drivers to slow down. Sensors on the bridge communicate to machines in the cars to turn information into action.
What could be achieved by cars and traffic signals communicating with each other? Traffic flow could be always optimal with stoplights responsive to changes in traffic volume. Of all technology trends, biggest may be the Internet of Things, which may create the most opportunity or cause the most disruption over the next several years.
Billions of devices communicate over networks, sending telemetry to and receiving instructions from software both nearby and far away. Software and sensors control more efficiently, conveniently, and cheaply much of what once only humans could do. Only eight years after the emergence of the smartphone, networked devices now already outnumber people and within the next five years will outnumber them by more than seven to one, say some optimistic prognosticators, with more than 50 billion sensors networked to industrial devices.
Reasons for Apprehension
Inexpensive power, universal connectivity, and the ease with which new software and processors make it possible for governments, businesses, and individuals to collect detailed data from the Internet of Things but also might present a downside of security and privacy issues and concerns as barriers to the promise of a happy Internet of Things new world order.
Privacy becomes an issue with wearable devices. Wearables publicly express fashion and style but at the same time can disclose personal data. These new devices may display some very personal aspects in conversations, relationships, and even health. Unlike smartphones, which users can conceal in their pockets, wearables may be the most intimate and yet public devices. Wearable designers need to keep this paradox in mind.
Design can address and resolve at least some of these concerns. A diabetes tracking application linked by an Apple Watch is an example of how wearable Internet of Things devices can help millions. Apple seems to do well in protecting privacy by two design choices, (1) using the pulse sensor to detect when the user removes the watch and (2) turning off the display when the watch faces away from the user.
All Internet of Things devices collect lots of data on what users do, and even data from fitness and health monitoring devices may be subject to misuse. The same device that measures the number of steps taken each day could acquire knowledge for unnecessary, even nefarious reasons.
With no involvement of evil or malicious intent, personal information nevertheless inadvertently leaked could be compromising if in any way sensitive. In any case, there remains the question of how long personal data on the Internet of Things should be available and how to dispose of it after collection has served its purpose.
Long Time Coming?
Sabotaged Internet of Things systems can threaten businesses and their consumers financially. The 2013 Target data breach operated through a virtual private network of a heating and cooling service provider at Target stores. The impact of attacks on Internet of Things systems tied to traffic management services could have even worse effects.
How much disruption could hackers cause by disabling or redirecting traffic signals? If in an emergency traffic suddenly snarls and backs up everywhere, it would be difficult to imagine how much the Internet of Things could magnify, extend, and prolong catastrophic effects. With the prospect of such problems unresolved more than 20 years after the advent of the Internet, it’s unlikely that society will be blessed by general operation of the Internet of Things within the few years predicted by optimistic promoters.
Philip Piletic – Originally from Europe, now situated in Brisbane, AUS where I work & live. My primary focus is the fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. I love to share my experience with others by contributing to several blogs and helping others achieve success. Currently, I am associated with LockedOn