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The Internet of Things is already here

Column It will expand, so we need to make good decisions
Fri May 09 2014, 15:40

Linux penguin logo"The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed." - William Gibson

THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT) is coming soon whether we're ready for it or not, driven by the rapidly falling costs and rising ubiquity of computing and network connectivity, so we need to come to grips with this in order to make intelligent choices.

To assist this process, The INQUIRER is collaborating with Intel to conduct a series of discussions about the Internet of Things. In March, we held a week-long debate about whether the Internet of Things will kill privacy.

We will conduct the second conversation in this series on Wednesday 21 May, when Intel's Internet of Things experts and The INQUIRER will host an exclusive roundtable event for senior information technology (IT) executives and professionals from all industry sectors at the members-only Groucho Club in Soho, London.

Where is the Internet of Things already appearing in the IT infrastructure that surrounds us? We can see the advent of wearable devices in smartwatches, augmented reality vision aids exemplified by Google Glass eyewear and Oculus Rift headgear, and even medical implants in the healthcare industry.

There are also smart electric power meters that some public energy utilities have already started installing in a few metropolitan areas in the US, to some controversy, and early adopters of solar power in homes have been selling the excess energy they produce back to the power utilities for years, enabled by the internet in some cases.

The promise of the Internet of Things is that these early internet connected devices are just the beginning, that soon household appliances and management systems will include computing 'intelligence' and become networked together.

Cable TV set-top boxes likely already report viewers' programming choices to the cable operators, while internet service providers (ISPs) naturally are able to monitor all of the internet traffic on their networks, encrypted or not.

Furthermore, as US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed almost a year ago, intelligence agencies in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - the so-called Five Eyes - among others, have been collecting and archiving all internet and other telecommunications traffic they can get their hands on, and apparently will continue to do so, despite several lawsuits and continuing protests against these practices.

Even though such surveillance isn't an Internet of Things development, businesses and individual citizens must remain aware of it and make appropriate decisions that will enable them to protect their own privacy, if and where they choose.

The initial debate about the Internet of Things and privacy conducted by The INQUIRER ended with readers voting by a slight margin against the proposition that it will endanger privacy, but that surely won't be the last discussion of that topic, either here or in the IT industry and society.

It remains a topic of considerable concern, and it should be kept in mind in future discussions. µ


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