The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept where everyday devices can be accessed through the internet using well-known technologies such as URLs and HTTP requests. Soon, IoT will offer consumers the ability to interact with nearly every appliance and device they own. For example, your refrigerator will let you know when you are running low on milk and your dishwasher will inform you when it is ready to be emptied. It's possible that, in the near future, consumers will be getting more text messages from their devices than human beings. Home automation has a strong consumer pull.

A new perspective

We are seeing elements of the IoT in the marketplace already, from controlling the lights and temperature to closing the garage door while away from the home. In a more comprehensive way, IoT transforms real-world objects into smart objects and connects them through Internet. In contrast with the current Internet, IoT depends on a dynamic architecture where physical objects with embedded sensors will communicate with an e-infrastructure (i.e. a cloud) to send and analyze data using the Internet Protocol. IoT envisions a future in which digital and physical entities can be linked, through their unique identifier and by means of appropriate information and communication technologies.

"Yes, by all means, collect data that benefits society, but those who collect the data need to know how to scrub it first from individual identifying information that invades our privacy."

The Internet of Things has emerged as a leading factor in the future state of the Internet. Its significance can be described in terms of providing a different lens on how to link the Internet with the real world’s objects. The truth is, the value of the IoT only comes from the astounding mass of data it is bound to produce.

Once millions of home appliances are connected to the IoT, there is a real opportunity for monetization of consumer behavior through analyzing appliance behavior, like how often and when you wash your clothes, iron your shirts, make toast, heat up meals, etc. This will therefore lead to businesses suddenly realizing the money that can be made from applying predictive analysis with it.

Some estimations are that the worldwide market for Internet of Things solutions will grow to $7.1 trillion in 2020. These predictions do not seem over-exaggerated. When you take a deeper look, the IoT can be used in many future scenarios. For instance, protecting the environment will require multifaceted solutions, but the IoT can uniquely help address problems such as clean water, air pollution, landfill waste and deforestation. Sensor-enabled devices can help monitor the environmental impact of cities, collect details about sewers, air quality and garbage.

Questioning security

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the Internet of Things. Challenges with a global IoT include government regulation with regards to spectrum allocation, security, battery issues, costs and privacy. Security, standards and overburdening the network are three requirements that need attention and focus before they can be implemented for mass adoption into modern life. The utmost care needs to be taken when deploying data collection devices regarding their lifecycle, data collection mechanisms and overall security protocols. It is crucial that information security, privacy and data protection be addressed comprehensively at the design phase.

In order to properly prepare, we need to start training our graduates in best practice aggregation and anonymity of data. Yes, by all means, collect data that benefits society, but those who collect the data need to know how to scrub it first from individual identifying information that invades our privacy. The next step for large tech companies involved in the IoT deployment in particular is to engage more with the end users concerning privacy. If we neglect this measure, it may soon be too late to put the genie back in the bottle.