What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The term Internet of Things probably caught already your attention, but if you’re like most people, you have barely any idea what it is. Don’t worry.

Widely hailed as “the next big thing”, the Internet of Things or IoT refers to smart connected devices in our homes and business, outside and inside, in cars, vehicles, shops, malls and so forth, that have the ability to communicate with each other over a network.

Now these intelligent devices are equipped with data sensors that allow them to communicate with one another. The ultimate goal here is to automate the process without any human interaction. The data we’re talking about here is the data that you as a user either uploaded or stored on the device.

To put it into perspective, just imagine that the apps on your mobile phone would interact with one another. Currently, all your apps serve only one specific purpose. Strava measures for example the distance you ran this morning and the other app controls your garage door. Each app resembles basically a single remote control. The IoT on the flipside aims to connect applications through personalized collected data. Say for example somebody rings your doorbell while you’re watching TV: the TV show you’re watching is automatically paused and you can see through the TV the person that is in front of the door.

That’s just a small example of potentially endless combinations that a fully developed IoT could do.

The current status of the IoT

While there are already version IoT versions and devices, it’s still pretty much in its baby steps. To simplify, there needs to be a whole ecosystem for a proper functional IoT. One of the challenge here is that device makers would rather prefer to create their own closed ecosystems. Over the past years, however, several groups and alliances have been formed with the intention to build and develop that said ecosystem together. Such alliances include Open Interconnect Consortium (founded by Intel, IBM, GE, AT&T and Cisco), HomeKit by Apple Inc. and AllSeen (backed by LG, Microsoft and Qualcomm).

Concerns & Challenges

Of course, while an interconnected home seems to have many advantages, it also comes with a number of challenges. These concerns are very important to the end user as it affects heavily their privacy. Especially at the moment where major tech companies such as Facebook making headlines every couple of weeks because of safety and security breaches, the questions that arise is what challenges should operators tackle when it comes to IoT?

There is of course the increased volume of large amount of data, speaking data centers have to be upgraded and the infrastructure needs a major overhaul, especially when it comes to data processing and storage. In other words, servers, storage management and the data center network require especially in the early years constant updates and maintenance. Operators also have to look into fair use policies as some people and regions will naturally use more than others, exceeding or are close to bandwidth quota.

The end user’s privacy should be the center of all concerns. As mentioned earlier, tech giants are known for selling and misusing user data. Regulations and protocols need to be implemented and enforced right from the get-go, both from the operator’s and government’s side. Through smart computer-controlled devices, many companies will be easily able to spy on you and hackers would welcome the opportunity to track you while you’re out of your home as devices are on standby. Especially when it comes to children, the effects of the IoT raise several key questions concerning privacy and identity.

Last but not least, financial manipulation. Hackers could be monitoring the water data at a Pepsi plant, calculate their product output and use this data for stock market predictions.

But…

Over the next few years, there will be many more smart computer-controlled devices available, making our world even more connected. Some major key concerns will be privacy and data rights management. Governments have to closely monitor the development of the IoT and act fast on new trends and technologies in favor of end users.




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