The Rise Of IoT

What is IoT?

According to Wikipedia

"The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

The definition of the Internet of Things has evolved due to the convergence of multiple technologies, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, and embedded systems. Traditional fields of embedded systems, wireless sensor networks, control systems, automation (including home and building automation), and others all contribute to enabling the Internet of Things. In the consumer market, IoT technology is most synonymous with products pertaining to the concept of the "smart home", covering devices and appliances (such as lighting fixtures, thermostats, home security systems and cameras, and other home appliances) that support one or more common ecosystems, and can be controlled via devices associated with that ecosystem, such as smartphones and smart speakers.

There are a number of serious concerns about dangers in the growth of IoT, especially in the areas of privacy and security, and consequently industry and governmental moves to begin to address these."

Today however, you can see the term IoT pop up in numerous places, and many people, including myself, can get quite lost into what, exactly, is IoT. So let us see together the two main branches of IoT and spend next week expanding on each of them.

Uses of IoT

The IoT has a surprisingly wide array of usages, ranging from commercial to personal, even branching out towards the military side of things. The most commonly used ones, that people might not even realize exist, are often used in Transportation. Tesla smart cars, applications that allow drivers to communicate with each other through the internet, even popular apps such as Uber as sub aspects of the IoT in transportation.

Though the transition appears to almost be natural since the smartphone era, it has not gone without it's hiccups and various questions regarding safety, privacy and even technical standards for their implementation have risen over the course of the years.

According to wikipedia, the applications of IoT are often separated into four categories: consumer, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure spaces. We have separated those into two distinct categories which will be the focus of next week's articles,

Municipal Uses: Uses that affect people in their day to day life, and as such will feature consumer and commercial uses, such as Transportation and smart homes. We will go through how IoT appears in those aspects and discuss any issues that occur in those categories.

Industrial Uses: Though not the proper use of the term if we are being 100% technical, I feel it best suits the industrial, infrastructure and even scientific uses of IoT. Likewise, we will expand on how they manifest in today's scene, as well as what issues arise from their application.

Issues of IoT

According to Wikipedia: "The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first Internet-connected appliance, able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold or not." However "Defining the Internet of things as "simply the point in time when more 'things or objects' were connected to the Internet than people", Cisco Systems estimated that the IoT was "born" between 2008 and 2009, with the things/people ratio growing from 0.08 in 2003 to 1.84 in 2010 "

With the expansion of IoT affecting more and more people every day, it is time to discuss of a few issues that showed up since it's inception. For this article we will address the two most popular and perhaps most common issues that rose and get more technical next week.

Privacy: The internet of things is an amazing tool that can help solve many issues. However some uses of it, are inherently against privacy. From billboards having hidden cameras to monitor what people stop and check out the advertisement, to better know the products demographic, though an undeniable aid, does violate the privacy of people being "scanned".

Philip N. Howard writes that the Internet of things offers immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access. Howard cautions, however, that privacy threats are enormous, as is the potential for social control and political manipulation. And you can already see versions of IoT used by certain regimes to better control their citizens. Furthermore, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed concern regarding the ability of IoT to erode people's control over their own lives. The ACLU wrote that "There's simply no way to forecast how these immense powers – disproportionately accumulating in the hands of corporations seeking financial advantage and governments craving ever more control – will be used. Chances are big data and the Internet of things will make it harder for us to control our own lives, as we grow increasingly transparent to powerful corporations and government institutions that are becoming more opaque to us."

Whether or not you agree, it stands without a doubt that the debate on Privacy concerns and IoT is a valid one, and if one is interested I am sure that with some research they can be pointed towards better qualified people than your's truly, to help them understand the discourse.

Security: The big one. Concerns that rapid development is happening without appropriate consideration of the profound security challenges involved and the regulatory changes that might be necessary.
Most of the technical security concerns are similar to those of conventional servers, workstations and smartphones, and include weak authentication, forgetting to change default credentials, unencrypted messages sent between devices, SQL injections and poor handling of security updates. However, many IoT devices have severe operational limitations on the computational power available to them.  These constraints often make them unable to directly use basic security measures such as implementing firewalls or using strong cryptosystems to encrypt their communications with other devices, not to mention the fact that many Internet of things devices also have access to new areas of data, and can often control physical devices. Let's face it, your thermostat being changed remotely by someone pulling a prank, may be a harmless gesture, but is a horrifying thing to consider nonetheless, especially when we think about other possible devices that can be tampered with with potentially harmful effects i.e medical devices, security systems etc.

Final Thoughts

The issues and elements displayed here are filtered by my own personal opinion, and I chose those two concerns because it is of my own personal opinion that they offer the most interest and value to be shared. I am on no means an expert and strongly suggest you visit the wikipedia article linked above to read on your own. It is a fascinating read that may urge you to research more into the subject.

The Internet Of Things is a fascinating subject that I feel is clouded under misinformation, misinterpretation and lack of proper understanding by most of us common people, and I found it thoroughly engaging to learn more about the subject.

As a cautious optimist, I feel that they can offer truly marvelous value to humanity as a whole, and create a society of the future that has previously only been imagined in science fiction. However, I do hope that the minds leading the progress on this front will keep the positive and almost utopian version of the future science fiction presents, and not the dystopian, Orwellian versions of the future, in which IoT is used to monitor and exploit.

See you all next week where we will get into depth with the two major categories I feel need to be expanded more! Have a lovely weekend!

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