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The ‘Thing’ about the Internet of Things

by: Allison Montgomery  /  March 26, 2015


Tags: federal government, hackers, information technology, networks 

Every morning at 6:30, my phone alarm blares, "It's a Wonderful World." At the same time, my exercise tracker valiantly attempts to vibrate me awake. I get ready for the day, help my three-year-old get ready, and we head out the door. Once we're buckled in the car, I open an application on my smartphone to set the burglar alarm on our house. Sometimes, I even change the temperature for our thermostat via the same smartphone app. Easy peasy.

Gone are the days of hitting the "arm-away" button on the home alarm control panel, running frantically through the house while trying to get my toddler to understand words like "urgent," "move it," and "GO!" before the alarm pierces the air and we start the entire circus over again. Do I miss those days? Nope.

So-called smart devices are on the rise, from exercise trackers, home thermostats, burglar alarms, coffee makers to light fixtures and smartwatches. Some call it convenience. Others call it dependence-but no matter what way you look at it-the Internet of Things has become commonplace in our daily lives. What's crazy is that it's not just personal devices that are utilizing this technology. Smart devices are making waves in the healthcare system, telecommunications, and also industrial control systems.

The idea of a "smart world" has become more than just a fantasy. There are countless ways smart technology can be (and already is) integrated into our world. Just look at Libelium's website, where they list 50 different applications for their smart technology (http://www.libelium.com/top50iotsensorapplications_ranking). It is widely believed that the Internet of Things can spur economic growth, improve health care, public safety, and transportation. It's safe to say that from here on out, all things that can be connected will be (cue obligatory "ALL THE THINGS" meme).

These technological advances bring their own set of questions about security, privacy, data sharing, and the law. Internet-connected devices are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. A recent study showed that 70% of Internet of Things devices have security vulnerabilities (think hacker harassing parents via their baby monitor story).
For years, the government and outside groups have thrown around ideas on how data collected from these devices should be stored, used, and protected. Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ; Kelly Ayotte, R-NH; Brian Schatz, D-HI and Deb Fischer, R-NE, introduced a resolution pushing for forming a national strategy on the Internet Things in both private and public entities. They encourage the government to "commit itself to use the Internet of Things to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and cut waste, fraud, and abuse whenever possible."
This proposal sounds good and reasonable. However, there is the ever-present concern that too much regulation could be harmful. Sen. Brian Schatz stated, "I think we need to have a firm enough hand to have some rules of the road, to ensure security and privacy but not to snuff any of this great innovation out." It's a fine line, but it's an issue that cannot be ignored.
As an avid user and enthusiast of internet-connected things, I'm curious to see how the government handles this and how it will impact me as an end-user and the world in which we live.

Written by Allison Montgomery  /  March 26, 2015

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