The Internet of Things – Wait…What?

Editor’s Note:  Many of you may already be quite conversant with the “Internet of Things” but I had to go looking.  Why?  Because, as a technologically advanced protocol for connectedness, it can be very useful.  However, it also has the potential to affect water system operations in a not so useful manner.  By the way, the Internet of Things is often referred to as IoT.

The following are excerpts from an article written by Jacob Morgan for Forbes Magazine in 2014.

“The “Internet of things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. But what exactly is the “Internet of things” and what impact is it going to have on you, if any?

Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.  The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people).  The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

How Does This Impact You?

The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other? There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be…What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more?  What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?  On a broader scale, the IoT can be applied to things like transportation networks: “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for things such as energy use; helping us understand and improve how we work and live.

Security is a big issue that is oftentimes brought up. With billions of devices being connected together, what can people do to make sure that their information stays secure? Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats. Then we have the issue of privacy and data sharing. This is a hot-button topic even today, so one can only imagine how the conversation and concerns will escalate when we are talking about many billions of devices being connected. Another issue that many companies specifically are going to be faced with is around the massive amounts of data that all of these devices are going to produce. Companies need to figure out a way to store, track, analyze and make sense of the vast amounts of data that will be generated.

So What Now?

Conversations about the IoT are (and have been for several years) taking place all over the world as we seek to understand how this will impact our lives. We are also trying to understand what the many opportunities and challenges are going to be as more and more devices start to join the IoT. For now the best thing that we can do is educate ourselves about what the IoT is and the potential impacts that can be seen on how we work and live.”

Now that you have a better understanding of IoT, here’s some more helpful information from DHS…

While the IoT can provide efficiency, convenience, and interactivity features that are attractive, the IoT can also be vulnerable to manipulation by malicious actors, as observed in recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. US-CERT recommends reviewing the Strategic Principles for Securing the Internet of Things to learn more.

 

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