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.