Vol. 9, No. 16 – May 11 – May 24, 2016 – Tech Today

Tech Today with Ken May

What is the Internet of Things, and what does it mean for me?

Have you heard anything about the Internet of Things, AKA IoT? It’s been in and out of the news quite a bit, for both good and bad reasons. Forbes says The Internet of Things is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. But what exactly is the IoT, and what impact is it going to have on you, if any? There are a lot of complexities around the “Internet of Things” but I want to stick to the basics. Lots of technical and policy-related conversations are being had but many people are still just trying to grasp the foundation of what the heck these conversations are about.

Let’s start with understanding a few things.

High speed Internet has become more widely available, the cost is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone ownership is sky-rocketing.  All of these things are creating a “perfect storm” for the IoT.

So What Is the Internet of Things?

Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it electricity, then chances are it can be a part of the IoT.  The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That’s a lot of connections, and some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion.  The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people).  The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

How Does This Impact You?

The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other? There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be. Say for example you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more?  What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

Of course, this opens huge security and privacy issues. IT departments are already dealing with the fallout from finding previously undiscovered holes in their networks because of IoT devices. There are great concerns with Smart TVs with webcams spying on people and recording conversations. As consumers, we must support watchdog organizations to ensure that civil liberties are not being violated, and legislate harsh penalties for those caught doing so.

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