March
26
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The ‘Thing’ about the Internet of Things

Every morning at 6:30 my phone alarm blares “It’s a Wonderful World” while my exercise tracker valiantly attempts to vibrate me awake. I get ready for the day, help my 3 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 peasey. 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 smart watches. Some call it convenience, others call it dependance-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 take a look at Libelium’s website where they list 50 different applications for their smart technology (http://www.libelium.com/top_50_iot_sensor_applications_ranking). It is widely believed that the Internet of Things has the potential to 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).

All the things

 

All of 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, and 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 the formation of a national strategy on the Internet of Things in both private and public entities. They encourage the government to “commit itself to using 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 all things internet connected, I’m curious to see how the government handles this and how it will impact not only myself as an end user, but also the world in which we live.

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2 Comments

  1. Zhen Li on May 9, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Hi Allison,

    Great article, and the world really is changing quickly with 3d printing, and the IoT among other technologies. I really enjoyed reading this article you wrote because the beginning of it really gave me an “in your face reminder” of just how much of my life is impacted by the IoT. Plus I really enjoyed the descriptive style you had.

    Your reference to the more serious side (regulations) was also very important as it may affect just about everyone. Should hospitals be allowed to keep an eye on my child’s health tracker? How can we protect the citizens from being hacked? What businesses should be allowed to participate in these activities? etc… All important issues that will need to be considered carefully. The future ahead is exciting, and it’s a curiosity right now how the government is going to respond to everything.

    Zhen Li

    • Gavin on May 14, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      I’m glad that you enjoyed it and took the time to reply! Regulations and tracking of information are both extremely delicate subjects. The data from them are valuable but dangerous in the wrong hands just as well. I have high hopes for where these technologies are going and what they could set up for us. They have already done a lot.

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