June 22

Plugged In: The Internet of [Every] Thing

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest thing since the Internet. And it is, quite literally, huge. Notably, “the Internet is as much a collection of communities as a collection of technologies.” It connects computers and people.

The Internet

The Internet began as a network of connected computers developed during the Cold War as primitive wartime technology.

In 1991, the interconnected network of computers became the World Wide Web.
In 1992, Congress permitted the Internet to be used for commercial purposes, thus making vast quantities of readily-accessible information the public domain.

In 1995, the Federal Networking Council (FNC) officially defined the Internet as a “global information system” that:

(i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons;
(ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and
(iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.

Now, the Internet far surpasses its original definition as a vast network of computer systems. It has expanded rapidly and could potentially include everything. In the Internet of Things, all kinds of objects and technologies can effectively “talk” to one another. WIRED offers the smart home vision, where a house has a nervous system; an invisible network of separate parts that “coalesce as a bodily whole”:

This is the language of the future: tiny, intelligent things all around us, coordinating their activities. Coffeepots that talk to alarm clocks. Thermostats that talk to motion sensors. Factory machines that talk to the power grid and to boxes of raw material.

The Internet, once breathtaking in its scope and abilities, is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Internet of Things

A smart world is emerging, one where everything is intertwined with technology: phone, car, keys, interior temperature, textiles and clothing, fitness equipment, kitchen appliances, music gadgets and so on. The scope of this technology doesn’t end in the professional sphere, but includes home, school, and transportation, too. After all, smart coffeepot that begins brewing immediately after the morning alarm is amazingly convenient!

A smart world, where everything and everyone is connected, can be an incredibly efficient place. But it can also be a dangerous place, too.

The Implications

What do you do with so much data? How is it stored? Where and how often? What kind of security is needed? The questions are simple, but the answers are complex.

Fortune contributor, Tom Krazit, noted that, “It’s kind of amazing that we all settled on the term ‘big data” before the ‘Internet of Things’ really arrived. That pending revolution […] will generate information on a scale we can’t even really comprehend yet.”

Such a large amount of data means that Big Data and the Internet of Things are also intimately connected. With Big Data, there’s already a glut of information for businesses and individuals to collect, analyze, and interpret. With the Internet of Things, there is much more information.

If information is power, than the sheer amount of information available from the IoT makes security efforts of paramount importance. All that data must be automatically and continuously stored, transmitted, and secured.

When your iPhone is connected to your bank account, your home security system, and your vehicles, hackers can steal more than your Netflix credentials. The Internet of Things creates an entirely new breed of cybercriminals—hackers combined with burglars—who have access to your personal files and sensitive data as well as your home, your family, and your belongings.

How do we collect, analyze, manage, and protect the massive amounts of data available from the growing Internet of Things? That questions remains to be answered.

Category: business

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