Now that we can connect everything, should we?

Now that we can connect everything, should we?

Contrary to popular belief, the web of Things, or IoT, isn't new. The technology world likes to put one label on a trend in order that it can package and sell, but the industry has been connecting intelligent devices for years. It’s been a gentle evolution, not revolution. Embedded processing has been adding intelligence and improving the performance of devices around us for many years.

“In the push to attach all types of devices, we run the important risk of compromising on security and privacy which will slow the expansion of truly valuable products and services”

What is new is that the broad availability of low-cost processing and wireless communications, making it possible to attach almost anything to the web for just a few dollars. But simply because we will, doesn’t mean we should. Within the rush to attach all types of devices, we run the important risk of compromising security and privacy, which may slow the expansion of truly valuable products and services. Consumers are just realizing how this entire data gathering is often helpful, but that it can have some negative consequences also.

It all starts with security

A key challenge for the IoT is ensuring that information collected from the vast number of edge nodes isn't intercepted or altered because it makes its way through intelligent gateways and to the cloud. Suppliers are working to make sure that building blocks of a secure system are in situ and available. Encrypted non-volatile storage, secure boot, communications protocols and other building blocks help create a sequence of security. Many companies are making products which will hook up with both consumer and business networks, thus demanding a process for securing the connections and authenticating nodes which will be trusted on the network. During this time of ‘bring your own device’, keeping the network secure may be a huge challenge.

There is also the need to employ secure and intelligent IoT gateways. These ‘universal translators’ are tasked to speak with devices that use a myriad of wireless protocols. Although it appears to the typical consumer stable and reliable wireless communications are widespread, the truth is that there are an outsized number of standards that still evolve.

These IoT gateways also got to perform the primary level of knowledge analysis, bringing deciding closer to the sting nodes. Not all data is well worth the cost of sending and storing within the cloud.

Systems got to answer the exceptions, especially data that's outside of the norm. Constantly reporting to the cloud that it is 72 degrees probably isn’t interesting. A rapidly changing temperature could indicate a spread of issues, from failing equipment, a door or windows left open, or maybe a fireplace.

Into the cloud

Of course, the true advantage of IoT is knowledge. Collecting thousands of knowledge points is meaningless, if it's not utilized in how that goes beyond just the management of some end point or thing. The customer will benefit by having a product with some new compelling features. But truth benefit comes from a greatly enhanced relationship thereupon customer.

An example might be connecting an appliance sort of a washer or dryer. The buyer can perform functions like programming a delayed start time so clothes are finished once they click from work. Or they receive a text that lets them know the cycle is finished. What could also be more compelling is consumers can monitor how their appliances are operating over an extended period of your time to assist determine when the efficiency is declining and it's going to be time for service or replacement.

But for the manufacturer, the advantages are great also. They’re ready to collect data on how their products are used on a broad scale. They will remotely monitor use patterns and recommend preventive maintenance services. They will correlate failure rates of parts to actual usage to enhance reliability.

The challenge is how companies will balance the positive uses of data that benefit their customer, with the more intrusive uses that are making the headlines. There’s a growing sensitivity to information that connected devices are collecting and who controls that information. What's the road between value added services, and monitoring a customer’s behavior and using that information in ways they didn’t intend? There are a variety of stories circulating about smart TVs that have 40+ page privacy policies. These products collect speech, gestures and pictures from inside a home. Yes, those can provide an excellent user experience, but can we expect the buyer to read and understand all of these details on how that information could also be used? Do they need to disable those features to guard their privacy?

The Bigger Picture

The ultimate value within the world of IoT is bringing together data from disparate sources where there are huge benefits. Today, we’re still within the world of knowledge silos. They’re certainly bigger silos, but data isn’t shared. The worth is locked away. Each company features a product, an app and a cloud, but no possible way to bring it all at once. There must be standards that allow true power within the data to be realized.

Summary

The world of connected devices is here. How big will it be? Not sure thanks to tell, but the expansion is here today and has been coming for a while.

Companies are running headlong into the planet of IoT, producing products that were never intended to be connected, but now are expected to be a part of a connected world. As I come to the end, here are some points to take care of:

Is it simple? Is it easy to operate? Does it blend invisibly into the user’s routine? Does it have staying power? Does it add profit, or will the user lose interest over time? Is it stable? Will it operate if left untouched for months? Years? Does it need regular updating or resetting? Is it secure? Have there been tradeoffs between time to plug , cost and security? Does it follow standards? Will it operate well with other devices?

The opportunities for IoT are everywhere. The challenge is to make sure we’re solving the proper problems.

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