We presently live in a highly connected world with our smart phones, smart TV’s, smart houses, smart (and driverless) cars and a mind-boggling collection of new and smarter “stuff.” But we as a culture have only begun to realize the possibilities of connecting all this smart stuff together. So these things and people can automatically communicate with each other and give us faster, better, more efficient, cost-effective and less wasteful performance. This possibility of automated connectivity is the concept behind the Internet of Things, more commonly referred to as the IoT.
The best, or perhaps the easiest way to understand the IoT is a definition from TechTarget.com:
“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 and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low — or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP (internet) address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.
IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), microservices and the Internet. The convergence has helped tear down the silo walls between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), allowing unstructured machine-generated data to be analyzed for insights that will drive improvements.”
Kevin Ashton, co-founder and executive director of the Auto-ID Center at Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology first mentioned the Internet of Things in a presentation he made to Proctor & Gamble in 1999:
“Today computers — and, therefore, the Internet — are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code.
The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy — all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things — using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
That’s a pretty insightful view of the now-present synergistic tech growth and momentum building behind the IoT – and it was foreseen almost 20 years ago.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that the International Data Corporation research supports estimates that the global Internet of Things market will grow to $1.7 trillion in 2020 from $655.8 billion in 2014 as more devices come online and a plethora of platforms and services grow up around them. The IDC also predicts that the number of “IoT endpoints,” connected devices such as cars, refrigerators and everything in between, will grow from 10.3 billion in 2014 to more than 29.5 billion in 2020.
Currently there are many disparate technology companies working on the infrastructure of such an all-inclusive network. Some companies are working on automated machine-to-machine (M2M) communications that are not dependent on humans for the collection of data. Other companies are focused on creating products with built-in capabilities to connect to large data storage and distribution systems – some currently available systems, and others that haven’t been invented yet. And still other companies are working on encryption and encoding systems to augment higher levels of security for access and sharing of collected data.
At first blush, this all sounds wonderful in accomplishing greater efficiencies for almost everything, but we need to look deeper into the repercussions and risks of embracing the integrated implementation task, the management of this enormous amount of personal data from every “thing” in the world, who or what would be responsible for its security, and the very concept of consensual consent authority.
Here are a few questions that probably need to be addressed, agreed-upon, and concluded globally as the world seemingly hurls towards this inter-connected panacea:
- With corporations being hacked almost daily for personal financial data, how would or could we insure against theft of personal and individual data and who would be responsible for the liability in cases of malfeasance or abuse?
- Who owns the data – the corporation the sold the product or provided the service? The user of the product or service? The company that provided the interchange technology?
- How would the sharing of this data be governed, would sharing be permission-based, and under what guidelines or rules for data collection would be established (and adhered to) under who’s authority?
The IoT will contain personal information about each of us: intimate information, personal information. This writer, for one, doesn’t have too much confidence information will be kept private. Currently, there’s a debate going on globally whether individuals have the right to information about them personally – their finances, their health, their habits, their activities, their spending habits, their vices and how they choose to live their lives.
This intimate view of me as a person, and the fact that I will have no control over who gets to view that information, makes me very uneasy. And this is the basic crux of the current battle in the courts and the debates in the media between Apple and the FBI – what are the individual rights of each person, and who should have access to that person’s private and personal information?
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