Anyone vaguely familiar with recent tech trends has likely noticed the connectivity of everything. Nearly every household appliance is available in a “smart” version — or one that tracks and learns how you use it.
While most people wouldn’t be concerned if someone was able to access their dish washing habits, it’s the bigger story that all this behavioral data tells, and the compromised private information, that is concerning.
What is The Internet of Things?
The internet of things means basically any electronic device being connected to the internet. These connections report data gathered from embedded sensors, actuators, or other devices that collect or transmit information. The data gathered from these smart devices can then be applied to optimize products, services, and massive operations.
Likely the biggest advancement in IoT has been the addition of internet to cellphones. This change allows for more data and information on the go, which gives users access to their network of “things” without a computer. More recently though is the addition of internet capabilities to coffee makers, light bulbs, a variety of wearables, and other smart home devices.
“Say for example you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you?”
What Can The Internet of Things Improve?
The benefits that connected devices have for everyday people may still seem unimportant in the grand scheme. However, implemented across the board to create entire “smart cities”, this will vastly reduce waste and energy use. It will provide tons of new understanding about the way we work and live.
Because IoT is still so new in the context of entire cities being connected to the internet, its applications and uses are still mostly unknown. While there is already long list of uses in place, the effects of it being implemented on a large scale are likely yet to even be imagined.
McKinsey Global Institute says, “the IoT has the potential to generate up to $11 trillion in economic value by 2025.” The question that surfaces, then, is who is receiving that value? Is it consumers using the connected devices, or the companies gathering the data?
Who Benefits From IoT?
Intel says connecting with consumers is growing more difficult. IoT works well for companies because it provides more touch-points for interactions. Businesses benefit from more insight into consumers and their needs, while consumers will have products and services better optimized to their needs.
One interesting application of IoT is called ThinFilm packaging. This allows electronic circuits to be printed on thin plastic material. These can then communicate with other devices and allow better package tracking, and counterfeit and fraud prevention. This makes the supply chain more efficient for production companies, which should deliver more affordable goods to consumers.
Regular people will have their lives improved through the convenience that smart home devices, and other IoT devices, provide, but will the companies selling the devices benefit more? Amazon, for example, sold 5.2 million of its Echo devices in 2016. That’s now 5.2 million opportunities for Amazon to learn more about customers, and how they make purchase decisions.
Can We Secure The Internet of Things?
McKinsey & Company calls security issues “the greatest obstacle to growth of the internet of Things.”
As more connectivity makes its way into the market, the threats that come from networks going down or security breaches grow and become more serious. However, discussions about the Internet of Things and internet security are nothing new.
Companies looking to implement IoT to improve efficiency and system monitoring should ensure they are prepared for the resulting changes. They need to make sure that they are complying with data retention laws and that their networks are able to support the influx of new data.
IoT Is Still Incredibly Young
The use of IoT and smart devices right now is about one-fifth of what it will be by 2025. Louis Columbus, Principal at IQMS, explains that the market will grow from 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to a projected 75.4 billion in 2025.
IoT leaders recognize the importance of protecting the acquired data and keeping it confidential, as necessary. Depending on the magnitude of the device, a breach could lead to a light bulb not working to something as major as a city’s traffic infrastructure failing. As the technology ages, more advancements in security and system strength will follow.
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