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The Internet Of Things Has Arrived!

Updated on January 28, 2015

Are you connected to the Internet of Things?

Lots of buzz has been created about the Internet of Things; some folks believe that this may lead to self-regulation of gadgetry, information and some sort of highly evolved artificial intelligence system. What may well have been perceived as science fiction in old Flintstones cartoons is now a reality. Everyone is jockeying for position when it comes to safeguarding the Internet, with US regulators scrambling for a modicum of control over how the World Wide Web maintains its freedoms, while also safeguarding the privacy of its users. Recently, a State of the Net conference was hosted in Washington DC. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also released a report detailing its position on the Internet of Things. The findings present a unified picture from FTC regulators about the need to maintain security, without expressly detailing what types of measures need to be taken.

Privacy Concerns with the Internet of Things

Chances are there is something, or several things, that you’re doing at this very moment that you wouldn't want to be shared with the general public. We’re not talking anything nefarious or bizarre – just your personal information that you do not want other people to have access to. If you're connected to multiple gadgets with the Internet of Things, your private information may be at risk. Consider for a moment all those devices that you have recently purchased that are able to track your heart rate, your caloric intake, the number of steps you take, your movements back and forth and so on… There's a lot of private information out there that you probably don't want anyone to have access to, right? The question is how are the companies making these devices, gadgets and appliances safeguarding the privacy of the data that they collect? Since the legal framework for the operation of the Internet is several years behind the technological innovations and developments taking place, there are currently no laws in place to manage the flow of information. You wouldn't for example want sensitive information being shared with your insurance company, your boss or your creditors. The recently released report that was mentioned earlier on in this article actually details how this type of data can be detrimental to everyday people. You wouldn't want your homeowners insurance, or car insurance rates increased because of information that is being collected about your movements from smartphones, smartwatches and other wearable technology.

How Advanced is the Technology & How Detailed is the Data Being Collected?

Consider for a moment that today's technology is so sophisticated that it is possible to determine your stress level, your mood, mood disorders, marital status, employment status, gender, health and wellness, smoking habits, sleeping patterns, exercise activity levels and of course your movements. Viewed in perspective, this can present pretty damning evidence about an individual. If insurance companies, creditors and employers are not barred from accessing such sensitive information, it may be detrimental to your well-being. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: inside of our homes are appliances, gadgets and devices that collect even more important information about our dietary habits, moods and beyond. This necessitates the creation of a formal structure of rules as to how this type of big data is accessed, protected and managed. We certainly don't want to create a scenario where the information that is collected about us is invariably used against us. On a practical level, it is easy to see how a smoker (with confirmed evidence thereof) would incur higher risks for healthcare insurance than a non-smoker. Employers are not only looking for dedicated workers, but they are looking for workers that are well balanced in terms of mood stability, fitness and general health. If your home gym appliances report that you are not exercising sufficiently, you may be last in line to get that promotion or that pay raise!

Risks of The Internet of Things

The Onus Is On Consumers to Safeguard Their Own Information

As all these tech gizmos and gadgets make their way onto the markets, it's easy to see how appealing they can be. However, as consumers we have all the power. We determine what we buy, how we use it and whether it is wise to do so. We also have the right to petition lawmakers and companies to put into place privacy controls limiting who gets to access the information that is recorded. Since the data is highly sensitive, consumers need to be in the driver’s seat and have the final say regarding how their information is used. Internet connected devices need mature security frameworks to be in place to protect customers from mismanagement of information. The problem is the lack of consistency of policy across companies and industries. This was also highlighted in the Federal Trade Commission report. At the present time there appears to be an ethos of self-regulation, but the US Congress is implementing measures to beef up the security and privacy protection mechanisms for the Internet. The FTC report also calls for legislation that is neutral where the Internet of Things is concerned. At the present time, self-regulation does not appear to be gaining the right amount of traction with companies, and many of them are selling information to others who seek it.

New Developments with the Internet of Things

Softwarehaus Software AG – a German software company, has now partnered up with an Indian integrator/consulting company Wipro to create software for connected products. They use real-time analytics engines, actionable intelligence and streaming analytics in their mash up technologies. The challenges faced by this joint-venture are new for Internet of Things system designers. Streaming data needs to be continually analysed and new architectures need to be developed for smart decision-making processes to be made. Of equal importance is protecting that data from real-time threats. Apps play a critical component in the evolution of the IOT, and algorithms and analytics with cloud-based technology need to be developed for smart decision-making vis-a-vis big data. Other companies that have announced new working partnerships include Italtel and Cisco for smart manufacturers as they prepare to open industrial plants for information technology enterprise applications.

Meeting the Challenges of Privacy and Security for the IOT

To maintain safety, it is likely that dashboards and management portals will need to be created allowing people to manage app settings. One such way to do this is the privacy option on Android smartphones and tablets. Several safety suggestions have been bandied about, including the following:

  • Companies should only collect data that they need, no more
  • Companies should manufacture devices that are secure from the get go
  • Companies should make it possible for users to choose what they wish to share

Failing the implementation of the aforementioned suggestions, we will always be at risk. Our gadgets and gizmos will become surveillance equipment for insurance companies, creditors and our bosses unless we take action accordingly. As has so often been stated in the past: A life that is quantifiable should be one that is geared towards self-improvement, not self-degradation

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