As the 21st century rolls on, what will be the defining technology of our time? Will it be iPods? Could it be GoPros? Perhaps Shamwows should receive an honorable mention? While these are worthy contenders, nothing seems to be shaping how households and businesses will communicate with each other quite like the Internet of Things. What is the Internet of Things? How does it impact the global economy? And why couldn’t they think of a better name for it?
The proliferation of IoT comes as an extension of the ubiquitous use of smart phone wireless technology. It’s amazing what you can do if you can figure out how to insert a microprocessor and an antenna within your gadget of choice. Even Barbie dolls are finding their way onto the Internet. Technology giants such as Intel, Hitachi and Apple are making partnerships and acquisitions in the push to make their products IoT-capable. The main drive behind all these attractive features is the lucrative marketing data they collect about consumers. Companies can know what you want to buy when you want it, but this kind of instantaneous marketing is not without its drawbacks.
One of the most recent blunders of IoT belongs to Samsung smart televisions. After revelations about how Samsung’s terms of service allow them to share conversations recorded by their smart TV’s built-in microphone to third parties made the rounds on social media, another uproar was caused over covert pop-up ads being displayed while watching streaming content. There are times and places for advertisement, but ill-timed interruptions such as these can seriously hurt a brand’s reputation.
Samsung’s good intentions further pave the road to a PR nightmare. The data they collect when consumers interact with their smart TVs is not encrypted. Anybody paying attention to the news lately knows that sending unencrypted personal data over the Internet makes them a wide open target for cyber criminals. This problem is only going to worsen as billions of new devices are made Internet-enabled without serious thought given to how customer data can be protected. IoT devices and wearable technology can connect to untrusted networks at home or in public, then unwittingly deliver malware to enterprise networks and wreak havoc. Successful implementation of IoT will require constant analysis and scrutiny as bring-your-own-device environments will carry an ever-evolving array of risks.
Despite this uncertainly of new threats to data security, there are some incredible developments on the horizon. There are many useful ways wireless technology can enhance industry and communication, even in unexpected places. “Smart farming” is being championed as the best way to feed the world as severe weather and climate change affect crops. Farmers with access to all possible variables such as weather, economic development, machine settings and crop information can make better decisions about how to run their business. Medical applications are currently in development that can increase the efficiency of hospitals and save lives.
IoT is poised to experience exponential growth in the coming years. New technologies and protocols will be made to support it while companies vying for valuable data will put their own spin on it. Hackers are going to try to exploit it, and in cases where poor network security is practiced, they will succeed. If and when this idea of billions of gadgets communicating with each other takes off, how will you be prepared?