There’s a good chance that, even if you don’t work in a tech-oriented industry, you’ve heard of the Internet of Things.
Even if you haven’t, you’ve certainly felt its impact. The rise of integrated devices, from smart thermostats such as Nest to a wide assortment of voice-enabled home assistants, has become widely embraced by a variety of companies. In addition to domestic applications, the usefulness of IoT tech has been examined in a variety of contexts and industries.
In this regard, it’s hard to write anything about IoT when its uses are so diverse. A smart electricity system is far different than, say, sensors that help optimize traffic. However, the one thing that all of these have in common is their use of data to improve some facet of life. The difficulty with IoT devices is, in fact, figuring out a way to standardize their security and implementation.
This is a next to impossible task, considering how the technology has exploded. With companies, often startups, rushing to capitalize on the IoT craze, many fail due to the technical requirements necessary to create a truly effective device. The lack of integration is problematic, especially when the foundation can even vary across devices. This generates more cost to the consumer in addition to contributing to the lack of security that concerns many critics of IoT.
Conversely, there are some that believe that the lack of security among IoT devices is a pain point, but not in the way many think. While it’s true that many connected devices lack security measures, security experts such as Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek argue that critics of IoT’s insecurity are too focused on the smaller devices that would not be disastrous if hacked. They cited internet-enabled light bulbs as an example of a device that would be pointless to secure, as the time and money spent doing so would have too little of an impact.
However, they admitted that systems such as automated cars would need failsafes and security if they were to become mainstream. Hacking a car would certainly present a much more dangerous scenario than hacking a light bulb.
The trouble then becomes prioritizing which devices to properly secure. However, one poorly-secured device in a network can undermine the others. Some companies, such as Cisco, have tried to actively prevent such a scenario by creating a foundation on which all IoT devices can be integrated. They hope that their efforts now will ensure that future projects are successful and efficient.
In many ways, IoT is emblematic of many other technologies. This surge of early adopters has given companies the funding and support necessary to continue to refine their products, and it’s likely that demand will only rise in the coming years. Where this technology differs is in the fail cases; if a company releases an expensive and/or poorly secured device, consumers will move on to one that has taken the effort to prepare for the next generation of IoT.
The Internet of Things has created a mounting pile of failures, oftentimes from companies unprepared to effectively harness the technology. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as these early examples of “what not to do” are useful for other companies to build on, and eventually reach the level of integration that many are envisioning.