Hess Associates

If you are confused about the constant references to “The Internet of Things”, IoT, rest assured that you are not alone.

An excellent introduction is an article by Bonnie Cha (https://recode.net/2015/01/15/a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-the-internet-of-things/). Bonnie quotes colleague Walt Mossburg’s succinct definition: “The broad idea behind these buzzwords is that a whole constellation of inanimate objects is being designed with built-in wireless connectivity, so that they can be monitored, controlled and linked over the Internet via a mobile app.”

She describes household devices/ appliances all connected via WiFi, Bluetooth, RFID, and other standards not yet really commonplace, companies working on IoT products, consortiums trying to create open standards, convenience, and safety issues. It is predicted that in a few years, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet.

But this does raise a good question, as posed by Gordon Smith, the Deputy Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (Globe and Mail, June 4, 2015). Where is your data going, and how is it protected? For example, if you use a Bluetooth toothbrush, and data is stored somewhere about your brushing habits, will your dental insurance company censure you for less than recommended brushing? Will enabling things around us help us or be to our detriment? Indeed, how protected is the data you are putting in the cloud?

What about the Globe and Mail headline news on June 18, 2015 that “Cyberattack deals crippling blow to government websites”? Ottawa’s websites and email were down for 2 hours. How secure is that? Imagine – people had to go ahead and pick up the phone!

Shawn Dubravac, the chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association, opened the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, 2015, predicting the Internet of Me (Toronto Star, Jan. 6, 2015, article by Raju Mudhar). He outlined some of the personal information that could flow from you or to you, like the Bluetooth toothbrush info referred to above, Netflix making recommendations based on your past habits, password managers, smarter cars, wearables – e.g. health tracking and iWatches.

Business Insider offers a good look at examples of IofT devices and their business applications in 2020 – such as Smart Home, Wearables, Smart Cities,
Connected Car (https://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-devices-examples).

At this time (2020) Consumer connected devices include smart TVs, smart speakers, toys, wearables and smart appliances. Smart meters, commercial security systems and smart city technologies — such as those used to monitor traffic and weather conditions — are examples of industrial and enterprise IoT devices. Other technologies, including smart air conditioning, smart thermostats, smart lighting and smart security, span home, enterprise and industrial uses (https://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/IoT-device). Another scenario – On a plant floor, an assembly line machine outfitted with sensors will provide sensor data to the plant operator, informing them of anomalies and predicting when parts will need to be replaced.

It all seems inescapable – can we prevent it from being “Orwellian”? Or is it too late? And how economical will it be? Do you have to buy a Bluetooth toothbrush if you don’t want one, or will your insurance premium be linked to it? By the IoT of course.