The Future’s Smart – Part 2

Internet of Things


Last week we looked at the Internet of Things and how it’s changing our lives, both at home and in our cars.

Now, we’ll take a look at how IoT will impact the buildings in which we work and the wider environment.

Intelligent buildings

When it comes to buildings, much of the IoT technology focuses on energy conservation such as lights and heating that detect our presence and adjust themselves accordingly.

But that said it would also be used in infrastructure maintenance. For instance:

  • Intelligent sensors will detect pressure variation along pipes and communicate this information to avert water leaks
  • Structural health monitoring will be undertaken via analysis of vibrations and material conditions within the structure
  • IoT will also extend to the outside environment such as alerts to let you know about parking spaces as you approach the building
  • Sensor networks will ramp up security by using a combination of audio, video, and vibration detection devices to detect unauthorised entering restricted areas
  • IoT systems will also track the whereabouts of various items in a building through geo-location

Smart cities

What is a smart city?

It’s a broad concept that can include many different things from streetlights and traffic signals managed wirelessly to reduce energy costs, to sensors that monitor water mains for leaks to reduce repair costs.

Other potential possibilities include:

  • Monitoring air quality for high pollution levels, helpful for asthma sufferers
  • Police can use video sensors to manage crowds or spot crimes
  • Sensors can determine when a car park is full triggering messages to direct drivers to other car parking places
  • Public transport systems will be interconnected, enabling different public transports to be coordinated and to provide information in real time
  • Road systems will inform drivers about which route is best at any given time and automatically manage traffic lights to reduce congestion to the minimum taking into account the traffic volume at certain times of the day
  • Smart grids will provide the correct amount of electricity depending on demand so power efficiency will be maximised
  • Citizens will be able to notify local authorities of damage to the urban environment via their smartphones, enabling quicker repairs

It can also be used to turbocharge marketing by tailoring each urban advert to each citizen. Plus, advertising will provide services where people are able to buy, for example, concert tickets via an electronic ad billboard.

It’s not all good news

Bullguard‘s article goes on to issue a warning.

Many smart devices have fundamental security flaws. For instance, in healthcare patient monitoring systems that enable continuous tracking can be hacked providing a route into hospital networks.

There are many examples of smart connected cars being hacked leading to the recall of a huge number of vehicles while botnets based largely on hacked webcams have recently been discovered.

And analysis of data from BullGuard’s free IOT scanner reveals that in the UK alone, millions of households are potentially vulnerable to hacking.

IoT is a new wave of technology that promises to silently revolutionise ways in which we live our lives much like the web and smartphones have done. But if its potential is to be realised, IoT technology must be sufficiently developed to enable safe interconnectivity.

Currently, this is not the case. The reality is that in the commercial rush to market security has not been a priority for IoT device manufacturers.

Furthermore, there is currently no consensus on how to implement security in IoT on the device which leads to patchwork approach to security. Some devices may have easy to crack default passwords, many do, while others may send unencrypted data to other devices.

IoT devices often don’t have enough physical resources to deal with powerful security features and manufacturers don’t care because there’s nobody that can sanction them. There are no official guidelines to follow, users aren’t educated, and there’s too much diversity to fix IoT security overnight. Not many manufacturers will tell you- but it’s a real problem.

As you can see IoT is fraught with problems. If tackled correctly it should revolutionise our lives, but it’s essential that our security isn’t compromised just for the sake of new technology.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

The Future’s Smart – Part 1

Internet of Things


Things are changing. The Internet of Things is here.

It wasn’t that long ago that smartphones, the Internet and social media all seemed very futuristic. Now, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

With that in mind, the arrival of connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) shouldn’t seem so far fetched.

A recent article published by BullGuard takes a candid look at what the IoT means to our lives and how it will manifest itself in the future.

This post will take a look at its impact on the home and travel; next week we’ll look at its impact on a larger scale and the potential issues surrounding it.

IoT is already taking shape with billions of smart devices becoming part of the globally connected network thanks to embedded connectivity in consumer electronic devices, home appliances and cars.

But this is only the first tranche; predictions vary, but there seems to be a consensus that by 2020 there will be in the region of 20 billion connected devices in place, ranging from home electronics to vehicles, industrial machines, infrastructure such as water and power, and wearables.

Let’s take a look at how IoT is predicted to play out practically across a range of common areas. But first keep in mind that a lot of these IoT devices have already moved from the drawing board into production, and it’s just a matter of time before they become mainstream.

IoT in the home

The home is going to be one of the most visible areas where we will see embedded IoT.

It can be used virtually anywhere, and what follows is a taster of how it could impact (or is already impacting) your life:

  • Smart thermostats will learn about how you use energy in the home allowing you to control appliances from your phone potentially making savings of up to 20% on energy bills
  • Sofas will be touch adjusted for temperature, firmness and angle based on your specifications
  • Personalised TV recommendations using voice commands and fingerprint touch identification
  • Sinks that will be operated by voice commands that adjust water temperatures for specific tasks, save water by tracking usage, with wastewater being recycled for use in the home
  • Ovens will be able to set themselves and monitor temperatures while fridges will includes inventory control and temperature gauges
  • Sound systems will play different music in different rooms depending on the person in the room and also know what volume levels to set
  • Beds will track movement and through integration with a thermostat adjust temperatures for the best sleep
  • Lights will be on timers that dim and get brighter depending on the time of day. You will be able to control the lights through your phone or voice, and the lighting will help you gently wake up in the morning

Smart connected cars

Autonomous self-driving cars are already on their way, although it’s early days. But we already have ‘driver assistance’ technologies that can improve or take over the actual performance of the car, such as systems that automatically park a car in tight spots, autonomously steer the car, brake for obstructions, and speed up and slow-down in traffic jams.

That all sounds quite scary, so a raft of safety technologies will be incorporated including external danger warnings for drivers such as severe weather and hazardous road conditions ahead. There will also be electronic windshields that automatically adjust to shield the sun’s glare.

A prominent feature will be in-car displays that stream messages and news and automatically interrupt when someone calls you, displaying an image of that person.

Concierge features will also alert drivers about the time to leave and arrival time. This same feature will send text message alerts to friends or business associates to let them know your arrival time.

Reading this as I write, it all sounds so far fetched and yet it will probably all happen within a few years.

Our world is changing and we are going to have to adapt and embrace these changes if we are to keep up.

Next week, it’s the turn of our buildings and cities as we explore how IoT will affect them.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.