What is the Internet of Things?

If you haven’t heard of the term “The Internet of THINGS” (IoT) you soon will. Most of you probably are already using a component of this topic in your day to day lives. If you have a fancy refrigerator, an alarm system that you can control remotely, a TIVO that you can set to record while away, unlock your car by simply walking up to it, a family pet with a locator chip, etc… then you are involved in the Internet of Things

We are used to the internet being a large network mainly designed around the sharing of information between human beings for the benefit of each other (pictures, messages, documents and data) As the internet and connectivity have grown so is what we can now process through it. “The Internet of Things” is a large network mainly designed around the sharing of information between themselves.. data gets added to the ‘internet’ automatically - with No human interaction. Think of it as billions of sensors and devices all monitoring for what is most important to you.

One of the first IoT devices was a Coke machine designed in the 80’s at Carnegie Mellon University. You could connect to it over the internet (called ARPANET at the time) and find out if there was any of your favorite drink available, which was useful for those late night cram sessions that required caffeine. The vending machine could even ‘phone home’ to the supplier to let the ordering system know it was out of a specific product and dispatch someone to refill it. This increased their operations efficiency greatly and kept the students juiced up and the vendors profitable

Fast forward to the present day…

  • Setting your thermostat, sprinkler, door looks ad alarm system that can be controlled remotely, to your card door that automatically unlocks once you walk up to it
  • A SmartTV? Or DVR that you can set to record remotely
  • A pedometer that connects to your phone?
  • A shirt that is fashionable, but also monitors vital signs and alert you to a issue
  • How about a pacemaker, insulin pumps, heart monitors that can be remotely monitored?
  • Self driving cars? – yes the first one is through testing and could be available shortly
  • Programmable power switches? Utility meters that record your usage automatically to the utility company
  • Refrigerators that can take and inventory of items you are low on and place an order to your local grocery store for you to pick up on your way home

This may seem like Futuristic stuff, but it’s not. It’s now. And being aware of the wonderful benefits and unique security challenges that they present is crucial in gauging how much connectivity is right for you. Companies like Intel, Microsoft, Google, Apple and others are working around the clock not only to continue this vision but to secure it. How do you protect your identity, monies, and personal data sent through these devices are going to be the next big topic on the news from years to come.

For example: a chip that makes any device ‘smart’ costs a few cents to a few dollars to make by the thousand in china and this chip is a fully functional computer, with memory and wireless access etc? Could I hack your laptop by penetrating your refrigerator? Maybe.

Say you are a “Bad Guy” that has managed to break into a series of nest thermostats. Perhaps you program the device to turn on the heat in the building to over 100 degrees. What would this do to your servers how would this help your completion meet that deadline knowing that your system was down. Now that Nest is owned by Google, we think they are more security conscious than most, so this is only a paranoid idea but you can see how these devices could be exploited. And let’s face it, Google is not perfect.

It is estimated that in the next 10 years this technology will add an additional $2-6 trillion to our global economy. The internet of things is here to stay. Making sure you are aware of the benefits they bring but also the risks will help you better navigate through this brave new world. Instead of fighting the technology embrace it but plan for it. Make sure you have a network security plan that reflect these new “Things” and secure it like a networked device. Password protect everything.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaTIt1C5R-M this is a great TED talk on this topic

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorikozlowski/2014/04/23/everything-is-connected-what-the-internet-of-things-means-now/ good article

Richard Keys

Senior Tech at F1 Solutions


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