Exploring the Internet of Things
Believe it or not, the term Internet of Things, or IoT as it is known, has been debated and discussed for decades by tech geeks. In 1989, the first breakthrough came with the first Internet-connected toaster.
Breaking IoT down it is simply connecting devices to the internet; connecting with other devices and communicating with us. A real life example could be the humble kitchen fridge. Imagine if your fridge could text message or verbally tell you that it was out of eggs, or scan the item to tell you that milk was going out of date in two days’ time!
Here in the UK, we are seeing more energy companies start to soft sell IoT devices to help manage heating within the home or to control devices like lights from our smartphones. As usual, the Government is behind this initiative to get more people onto smart meters but may not hit the target.
The possibilities are endless with IoT on a much bigger scale. Examples of this include:
- Smart Cities
- Smart bin collections (eg. when the bin is full)
- Smart traffic control, both in town and on motorways
- Smart sensors for cooking, crop control, tracking parts on industrial machinery.
Ultimately, the Government wants to gather as much data as possible about energy consumption to help future-proof our energy supply for decades to come.
IOT is relatively safe. One key point that needs to be clear right at the start is that all these devices do collect personal information so policing privacy and security with this new technology is hotly debated. A number of big questions can be posed; where does that data go, who looks at it, and what will it be used for by the company and in some cases third parties?
Currently, IoT is in its infancy, with consumers only just starting to look at the benefits. Security experts are still very worried about its implications. They have, for example, been able to hack baby monitors, automated lighting, smart fridges, and traffic signalling – which is worrying. As IOT does come more into the public domain, cyber criminals will use IoT to ransom high-profile individuals to try and leverage financial gain.
So the short answer is yes, IoT is relatively safe: you’re not likely to face serious loss or damage because of your smart meter, any more than your home PC, at least. However, there’s no guarantee, and so far not enough is being done to ensure IoT isn’t the next big hacking target.
IoT will also, though slow to be implemented, come into the lifeblood of the business world too, a bit like computers. As you can imagine, Manufacturing has started to organising tools, machines and people, and tracking where they are at any one time. IoT could become your boss’s best friend in seeing what you are doing and when you are making that all-important cup of coffee! I would like an IoT device to sense when I need a cup of coffee and make it for me. And on that note, I think it’s time for a coffee break…