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Internet of Things — Pitfalls and Promises

Last updated on March 4, 2021

Ever since hearing about the internet of things, I’ve been a skeptic. More convenience is less privacy. Things become more complex and time consuming. Indeed, many “conveniences” may actually be irritating for the self reliant.

Internet of Things Basics

Connecting everything to the internet is the underlying concept of internet of things. A home appliance may communicate with an air conditioner. They collaborate with other connected devices. Operating in an internet like way. Thermostats for instance may have motion detectors. Smart phones gather a variety of details about their environment. Doors can be (un)locked remotely. Notifications from your fridge about spoiled food or low quantities.

From these “things”, data is generated. It’s collected on an internet of things platform. Additionally, valuable info is extracted. It’s analyzed and provides analytics to users and merchants.

What’s more, is that everything connects via the same IP and email address as the cell phone. Privacy is partially adopted from the settings of the actual device. In essence, IOT devices reside among an ulterior network.

Internet of Things Benefits

Undoubtedly, there are many. Some may say IOT is among the most significant innovations of the 21st century. It’s ability to transmit wireless data provides greater efficiency. It’s advancing the way we live. Machines are telling us when to do things. And there’s no need to build our own platform. The technology is cloud dependent. In turn, lowering cost while becoming more accessible.

In business, the internet of things tells us more about the customer. It enables better control over a variety of processes. Results help us plan for better distribution. Via automation, waste reduction is accelerated.

And the possibilities are endless. Focus on research will increase. Emergency support will change. Disease management is improving. Employers can track staff performance while lowering production risks.

Internet of Things Safety

The internet of things is a prime target by hackers all over the world. And it’s not just the general public. Corporate networks are in the crosshairs.

Why? Big business already gets tremendous insight on us via GPS, browsing and shopping, digital transactions, and even health. IOT opens the door to provide more data. The potential for scandals are abundant. With a smart fridge, what’s not to say an insurance company couldn’t raise rates based on what’s inside? Could a smart microwave be shut down due to diet restrictions? IOT users could very well be providing questionable conglomerates with frighteningly accurate patterns in every area of life.

Faded grafiti that says Big Brother is watching you. In reference to internet of things data collection
File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BigBrother.jpg

On the other hand, the internet of things may in fact serve as a web of surveillance. Some of us may think this entire concept sounds ridiculous and science fiction. But it’s quickly evolving into a reality. Everything’s connected. Most of which lack keyboards and monitors. They consume near zero levels of power yet play strategic roles.

Take for example, an IOT device embedded in an athletic shoe. Metrics are sent to a smart phone, laptop, and on to a corporate data center.

IOT Security

If you are however using an internet of things device. Examples may be smart thermostats, cameras, gaming consoles, or home assistants like Alexa or Google Home. The devices should most definitely be isolated from other gadgets. They should not have access to your main network.

With the advent of these innovations, hackers have rushed to find ways to compromise them. And as IOT advances, more attempts will be made. So, to circumvent these hindrances, you’ll need a secure setup.

One network should house your personal computers, devices, business, etc. A second network should be created for guests, friends, and family. Your internet of things devices should reside on a third network. All three networks should have basic malware protection. The first network should then be given granular access to the third one. It should be able to communicate with the IOT devices. But the IOT devices should not able to speak to the first network.

What’s on the Line?

Firmware is the software that interacts with hardware. What could happen if a hacker gains access to the firmware of a network? Malware can be installed. Spamming, phishing, ransomware, or theft can occur; corporations using internet of things based devices are putting OUR DATA on the line. Let it be known, connected devices are never the target. They’re akin to obtaining login credentials on one site, to be used on another. Networks are the target.

Besides sinister actors eyeing networks, privacy policies are a common threat. These agreements are generally many pages and chock full of confusing legal jargon. In turn, things are shared without our consent. Sometimes video footage is shared unbeknownst to us. Once in the hands of the manufacturer, there’s no telling where it goes. Maybe voice transcriptions are shared. Conversations, diet, sleeping, working hours, sex, or stress levels.

There’s a lot of talk about privacy. In some cases, it’s a choice. Using these technologies is at our own discretion. Furthermore, what are the legal ramifications? Could this data be used against us? Where is the line among data sharing? Do law enforcement and bureaucracies have access to this information? In an age where many things are being politicized, could IOT potentially harm us?

Powering Off

Some of us just want shoes to be shoes. Versus shoes that keep track of movement. Some of us enjoy indoor plants vs those sending notifications. Is an email really necessary when laundry is finished? Do baby monitors really need to be online? Or can adults monitor infants with their own supervision?

To say nothing of corporate trust would be superficial. 2020 was an exemplary year. For a variety of reasons. There’s a growing lack of trust among big business. Before we bask in another so called consumer convenience, this should be noted.

There’s no doubt the internet of things will provide tremendous resources. But, is it worth it? Does the internet of things make us less human? Less capable of running our own lives?

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