Anticipate and embrace the changes the Internet of things will bring or it will do more harm than good.
The concept of the Internet of things (IoT) dates back to the early '80s when the first appliance, a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University, was connected to the Internet to check its inventory to determine how many drinks were available. But IoT wouldn't become practical until IPv6's huge increase in IP address space allowed us to assign an IP address to every "thing."
The emerging IoT market we see now is all about a new way of connecting people with products and how products will connect with each other. Before long there will be more "things" on the Internet than people, according to Gartner, with over 26 billion connected devices by 2020. Investors are taking note – pouring $1.1B in financing across 153 deals across the IoT ecosystem in 2013, a rise of 11% year-over-year.
While much opportunity and innovation will result from IoT, there's a dark side that should be addressed early on in the adoption cycle.
The dark side: privacy and security
The increase in the number of smart nodes brought on by IoT, as well as the amount of data the nodes will generate, will only increase concerns around data privacy, data sovereignty, and data security. Additional challenges will include understanding how devices will effectively and securely transmit and store these huge amounts of data. New messaging protocols like MQTT (messaging queuing telemetry transport) will become available to transmit the data securely.
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If it's online, it's vulnerable. With IoT, we're entering an age where hackers can not only break into government agencies and corporations and routinely perform identify theft, but also target connected houses and cars. It's one thing when your PC or phone acts up, but what do you do when you can't turn on your lights, open your door, or turn on the heat?
Security for IoT has been a concern since the arrival of RFID technology so addressing security early on in the implementation stage will be key to safe and practical IoT adoption. When the US State Department first distributed US passports with RFID tags, passport data could be read from 30 feet away using equipment available on eBay for $250. This required changes to secure the RIFD tags. But security and data privacy risks associated with IoT will still remain. If everything is connected to the Internet, in theory anyone can see what's going on anytime they want? What if your connected car is detected at the golf course on a day you called in sick to work?
While some may argue that smartphones have already taken us there, at least you can turn your phone off. Contextual data, like location tracking, can fundamentally undermine privacy if not managed correctly. To do that requires a combination of policy and technology.
Really, really big data
If you thought you had big data prior to IoT, you ain't seen nothing yet. The enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume, velocity, and structure of IoT data, will create challenges in storing, processing and analyzing the data. For enterprises to get the bountiful insights into customer activity that IoT promises, all the data needs to be stored and analyzed somewhere.
Companies should consider using one of the database as a service (DBaaS) offerings to facilitate data ingestion and management. The quicker enterprises can start analyzing their data the more business value they can derive.
Technology is great if you know how to use it
Does anyone worry that a world where everything has a sensor connected to the Internet may be a world that's too complex for its own good? If we couldn't figure out how to operate our VCR or wireless router, how can we figure out how to debug error messages when our cars, refrigerators, and sneakers are wired to the Internet? Is it possible we are on the path to create a world where many of the things we have won't work and a majority of the population won't know how to fix them?