THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT) has the potential to transform business, with the rise in internet-connected devices allowing firms to better manage devices and services, and ultimately cut costs. However, with security fears still plaguing IoT, along with resistance from the general public, some are concerned that the IoT is being held back.
The INQUIRER and Intel held an IoT roundtable in London on 21 May, where we welcomed IT professionals from companies including West Middlesex Hospital, Kingston University and Pensar to discuss how IoT can be used in business and the concerns surrounding it.
Madeline Bennett, editor of The INQUIRER, kicked off proceedings with the revelation that 62 percent of readers surveyed said they do not use IoT in business, which arguably highlights the resistance and lack of understanding surrounding the rise in internet-connected devices and suggests that it could be viewed as "hype".
This quickly became a hot topic at the event, with attendees discussing whether the rise in IoT devices is much ado about nothing, and what can be done to change public perceptions.
Martin King, head of IT services at the Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, said that while the IoT could be viewed as "hype", the technology industry needs to overhaul that perception.
"I imagine that, while it could be hype, it's up to the industry to make it happen, King said. "There's a massive market opportunity there, and I believe the industry will be keen to make it happen and we probably won't really notice it until it's actually happening."
However, King added that given recent NSA revelations - such as those claiming that the US security agency placed backdoors in kit such as routers - public resistance to the rise of internet-connected devices, which will see user data being shared more widely than ever, is likely to grow.
"There's a huge amount of potential for surveillance with IoT, and it gives great Big Brother opportunities," King said.
Nada Philip, senior lecturer for Medical Information and Networking Technologies at London's Kingston University, agreed with King, and said that the industry will make the rise of IoT happen. However, she was not particularly pleased about this.
"Children are all the time at home. They never go out and socialise with other children, and instead play virtually with their friends. Unfortunately, the rise of IoT is going to happen," she said.
Indi Singh Sall, technical director at NG Bailey IT Services, said he has already experienced resistance to IoT, despite the benefits it brings to his business. "We have received a couple of opportunities to bring new, IoT technology to the manufacturing industry, but fear of embedding that technology frightens people. At the moment, its a complete no no," he observed.
"Our customers want smart desks so they can manage the estate better, but the fear of putting that technology in is a huge barrier."
Ashfaq Gilkar, head of IT at West Middlesex Hospital, spoke of his similar experience, saying, "Doctors and nurses tend to be very adverse to new technologies, especially those who are older. Projects that we have tried to implement were not supported because clinicians were showing resistance, despite us showing the benefits of such projects."
Karen Lomas, head of Intel's IoT division, said that while Internet of Things is likely to see a rise in resistance, once a few people come around to the idea many more are likely to follow - which could allow it to move towards its full potential.
"You only need a few percent of people to be onboard at the beginning, but once we see the potential [of IoT], this number will grow over time," Lomas said.
Many of the IT professionals in attendance thought that education will be a huge factor in this, with Stuart Dommett, head of business marketing at Intel saying, "You need to educate people, and unless you do, you're going to get a false answer as it doesn't reflect people's true perceptions."
Talk soon moved on to security, a huge grey cloud currently looming over IoT, with many worried about what will happen to all of their data scooped up by internet-connected devices.
Intel's Dommett said that for it to work, IoT requires a whole new security model in order to properly protect user data. This is likely to be a huge task, which if not done correctly could ultimately destroy businesses.
"When we look at consumers, they don't really care about privacy and security < " Dommett said.
"They think they do, but they don't really understand it. They are really offended when you lose their data, but at the end of the day when we look at the cloud - and this is something where BYOD is coming from - you have to start to trust the entry points, and that means a whole new security model for this to work. You're going to have to secure the device or the sensor, you need to secure the data, and you're going to have to secure that across an open network - it really is a massive, massive change.
"The access to personal data is probably one of the biggest changes we've got going forward - and it can destroy your company. It's very important [that] we understand what that security model is going to look like, because we can't afford to run private networks."
Dr Will Venters from the London School of Economics argued that concerns around the security of data could restrict the Internet of Things, saying, "The security argument is always put forward, but there's a value argument that goes alongside that - maybe you want data in your sensors, but you don't want the risk of the data on the sensor. It's easy to say the solution to all IT concerns is to lock it down to a single computer."
Intel's Lomas didn't agree that it was about "locking down" data, and said it's more about deciding who gets access to that data, and how it can be shared securely and in a personalised way.
"Intel doesn't believe it's about locking it down so it's not accessible; it's about deciding, and who gets to decide is really interesting," she said. "If you're given access to the data, does the GP need the data personalised? Yes. Does the drug company? Probably not.
"What we believe you need is systems, or an architecture, that allows that to be protected and shared in a personalised way. That's how you manage that data - you have to have it secure, and I think that's the key." µ