I used to wonder what my toaster might have to say to my toothbrush but the recent flap about LG monitoring TV viewers even when the feature was turned off got me to thinking. It's not the hackers I'm concerned about. There are lots of "legitimate" applications. Here's an example: An e-mail arrives at my employer's HR office.
From: Shady Security
Subject: Walter's recent absence from work
Our confidential IoT monitoring and analysis service reports that Walter reported sick yesterday yet he got up at 8:00 that morning, had twice as long a shower as usual, made twice as much toast as usual, made twice as much coffee and flushed the toilet twice as often. It also reports that he left the house at 9:30 AM and drove to the shopping mall where he bought a bottle of very expensive perfume as well as some lingerie.
On an unrelated note, we observed that Miss Susie also called in sick that morning. Her washroom was not used nor were her toaster, her coffee, nor any of the lights in her apartment.
Finally, we know where YOU were last night and when you got home.
What I have seen is that those who are most vocal about how wonderful it will be when every device is internet connected are the folks who sell the parts that would be used for the connections. The challenge is that the actual value will not be anything close to what is promised, and that when the novelty wears off, or a system gets hacked, the internet feature will be switched off. Then it will just be more electronic waste to fill up ou8r landfills.
The other likely thing is that the reliability of the internet connected device will be poor and then the hundred dollar toaster will cease to function, and the folks who payed all of that money will not be happy. And will they be happy about having to fix the $1500 refrigerator when it's electronic package fails? And we know that the interfaces will be made as cheaply as possible. So there is a problem there.
Just imagine what a fun time the hackers will have planting malware. What happens when they start something simple, such as switching all the appliances off and on in unison? Just think about the magnitude of inrush current we will be facing. Do we really need this convenience? After all, the main push for the internet of things is on the sellers end, not that consumers are demanding it. It is a new market and a new chance to make lots of money. We really need to keep that in mind. Remember the Lorax!
I've been dabbling in this area for quite a few years (working with ZigBee). Yes, it's great technology and has many genuinely useful applications. But I think the benefits are a little overstated and the risks way understated.
Take the "hacking the laundry cycle" example. Ok, how about entering the fast spin cycle and drive to 2400 rpm when the machine is rated for 1200. And leave it run for hours... until the bearing fails (possibly catastrophically). Anything capable of motion (eg vacuuming robots) also have serious risks associated with them... the ability to cause damage and possibily starting fires. Any appliaces with sensors can be turned into spying devices, to determine who/when people are in the home or what they are saying or doing.
The consumer electronics industry's current record on security has not been great. Coupled with this the practical consideration of how to update firmware... do you do it over-the-network (possibly opening devices up to widescale attacks), or do you rely on the consumer to update their devices manually (it just won't happen!).
I can see major benefits in the area of energy management. I'd like to be able to command my dishwasher to "run when kWh < 10c but not any later than 7am". However one requirement for me would be the option to disable all networking should I chose to opt out.
Good that you mention the Internet of Things coming to the factory floor, Rich. In the past, factory technology has lagged on issues such as netwrorking. No longer. Now the plant is on the cutting edge. I guess money-saving efficiencies has pushed to factory to the front of the tech line. Automation vendors are beginning to connect everything, from remote conditioning to iPhone apps that keep control, personnel up on plant stats. Problem is, with every new connection, there is a possible new entry point. Rockwell has partnered with Cisco to address the thorny problem of security. It will be interesting to see what others do. If no, seciurity breeches may pass faulty gauges and valves as the culprit in factory meltdowns.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
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