Friday, November 28, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) Internet of Things: The Internet of Things as the biggest data grab in the history of man

I’ll be the first to admit that title above is a little hyperbolic but what’s really scary is that it’s not really that far from the truth. There has been much talk about the Internet Of Things (IOT) which connects “things” such as smartphones and fridges to the net and allows these devices to communicate with each other.

Tech titans from Google to Cisco Systems have talking up the potential of the internet of things (IOT) with Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers wagering that the market for IOT could worth $19 trillion[1]. I wouldn’t (nor would chambers for that matter) know whether the internet of things will become a multitrillion dollar market but what I, chambers and bunch of tech companies know full well is that IOT will be the main driver of the biggest data grab in history of the species.

Any tech executive you can get your hands on will talk enthusiastically about the internet of things and its benefits but what he won’t tell you, or won’t be able to tell you, is why “things” need to be connected in the first place. I’ve watched tech exec after tech exec waffle away x amount of minutes of his time and mine about the internet of things and its benefits and all I could glean from all the waffle was IOT would produce two big winners, 1) data analysts and 2) the organizations they work for.

Companies for years have been collecting data on us for ages to figure us out and get a better read on our buying habits and with the advent of IOT, companies of today and tomorrow will be able to get the best reads on their customers John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford would have killed their grandmothers for.

However, companies who were looking to get a better read on their customers’ needs and wants will get a deluge of information that is either irrelevant or super-sensitive as for the most part, companies at the cutting edge of IOT have so far found it difficult to make sense of all the data they have collected via “things”. CMO’s and CIO’s everywhere have been racking their brains trying to extract information relevant to their company’s bottom line and have so far had not much to show for it.

Added to their woes, these companies will have to deal with the security threats that come with connecting a growing number of things to the web which companies have proven themselves to be mediocre at best and downright neglectful at worst. They have been relatively behind the curve on the security of PC’s, laptops and smartphones and are already lagging behind hackers who have already compromised thousands mundane item such as fridges and even toasters.

This brings us to the simple yet most relevant question worth asking about any technology: is it needed? My answer is an empathic no. IOT is not dangerous because companies get to know us a little better or hackers can make bots out of our toasters and toilets but because it takes control over how our personal data is gathered and used out of our hands and puts it into the hands of a handful of corporations who make their money off our data. Furthermore, IOT puts our data at risk because items connected the net are shoddily protected or unsecure, which is bad enough, but with the intrusive nature of technology, the information collected about will become more personal than it’s ever been.

In light of this, no matter how much tech executives at symposiums and conferences across the globe would beg to differ, IOT is not really needed and thus shouldn’t be widely adopted and as the economists’ recently pointed out, “who needs a smart fridge anyway” as I would quite like my fridge, toaster and yes my toilets to be as stupid as possible[2].



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