The Internet of Things (IoT) is the linkage of people, animals and objects in a network that doesn’t require human interaction to function. IoT is the heritage of “smart” devices that communicate machine-to-machine (M2M), RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), wireless technology and the Internet. So far, there is virtually nothing that can’t be assigned an URL and given the ability in one way or another to transfer data to a centralized server. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are already a part of IoT, thanks to electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Help! I’m Overwhelmed With Data

Data for the IoT is collected by sensors. The type of data collected depends on the person, animal or object it is a part of. Sensors can relay medical information to doctors, tell a farmer a cow didn’t come home or warn a driver that a tire is losing air. It’s all information that can be gathered, analyzed and transmitted to someone or something. IoT is in the process of transforming everything into information. The key, then, is turning all that data into useful action. Machines are probably ahead of people in responding appropriately to the deluge of information.

Hey! That’s Personal Information

Computers and the cloud probably know far more than many people think they do. When the location and activity of every single entity on the planet can be monitored, the concept of privacy is severely undermined. Multitudes of companies and institutions already have profiles on the products people buy, the investments they make and the way they spend their leisure time. The list goes on. Someone, somewhere, knows just about all there is to know about an individual.

Many people don’t mind having certain information collected. They like the convenience when their favorite online vendor presents suggestions based on their past purchases. Many will freely give their consent to the collection of information about them, without truly realizing how that can be collated with other data and analyzed. That’s not all bad. There’s a lot of benign, if not useful, benefits. What’s important is that the person be aware of what information is being collected, where it’s going and how it will be utilized. The problem is that such knowledge isn’t always available.

Katie, Bar the Door

Being connected and having access to all the information needed to make an informed decision and take appropriate action can be a good thing. Information, however, needs to be protected to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. A significant weakness in IoT is the lack of effective security. Home appliances have the ability to “spy” on people. Cyber attacks are increasing both virtually and physically. Even more alarming, national security is potentially vulnerable to enemies of the United States.

It’s clear that strong security and privacy measures need to be put into place. That’s a difficult task to accomplish. Data collection and analysis are ubiquitous and much of it is helpful. Humans like to be connected to other humans, but they also want to feel safe. Security is an area in which a lot more work is necessary.