Minority Report meets Repo Man (aka The Internet of Things)

We’re rapidly heading to the point where we won’t just use the Internet to access resources on the World Wide Web to figure out what movie to watch next, where to go for dinner or how to solve other larger problems, but instead more and more of the resources in the world are instrumented and connected to the Internet and telling us (the physical world) what we should be doing next based on correlated events the devices are monitoring. Imagine a patient’s pacemaker telling the doctor that it has detected some anomaly and has ordered a replacement device, checked health insurance and scheduled the smart car to take the patient to and from the hospital for the surgery before the patient or doctor even knows something is wrong. Or helping to reduce the 1500 trillion liters of water that is wasted by agriculture each year representing 40% of the world’s usable water and making it available to areas of the world that need this precious resource.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving this paradigm. If something can be instrumented, to provide a measurement of an event, then it can be monitored, and connected with other similar devices to generate actionable data that we can use to respond, real-time to our world.

A “Thing” is any uniquely identifiable device that can connect to the Internet. It can be a device that has limited CPU and low memory/power resource requirements making it ideal for deployment to actuators and other small sensors, or in devices that support short-range wireless protocols such as Near Field Communication (NFC), RFID and traditional Wi-Fi. It can also be a large device that is hard-wired via Ethernet, such as power plant monitors or live-feed traffic cameras to allow automated traffic control for a smart city. Typically, these ‘Things’ are using REST to transport the massive amounts of data being generated and easily consumed by a variety of software tools.

The word ‘smart’ is applied to all aspects of the IoT world, broadly speaking these fall into five major categories:

  • Wearables, such as a Fitbit or an iWatch
  • Home, to support automation such as smart thermostats
  • City, providing automated traffic control and future smart cars
  • Environment, to detect and protect us from harm
  • Enterprise, improving the way our businesses work by improving logistics and driving innovation

Smart can also be as simple as your kitchen faucet detecting you left it running and nobody has been standing in front of it for five seconds so turn the faucet off.

In addition, smart can be invasive; by the time we reach the end of this decade experts forecast we will need to accommodate nearly 30 billion unique IP addresses supporting the encoding of 50 to 100 trillion trackable objects. This means in a typical urban environment you would be tracked by anywhere between 1000 and 5000 events. Given that today’s IPv4 protocol can only support 4.3 billion unique addresses, there will soon be an accelerated move to the new IPv6 protocol which can support 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses (yes that is 3.4×1038). When this volume of devices is connected, who is going to make sure companies are regulated on what data they can collect and how we give our consent to its collection and usage. The upcoming European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in 2018 provides the rules for personal data protection but, as we’ve seen, some people like to exploit data for nefarious means. We’ve already seen people hack IoT devices from the cameras in your tv to crashing smart cars. What happens when people start holding individual’s hostage threatening to turn off their pacemakers, which is akin to Eric Garcia’s Repossession Mambo book, or the adaptation, Repo Men, film. (when you rent out your artificial device and woe is you if you don’t keep up the payments).

Of course, personal privacy is very important but the environment is also impacted by IoT. Sure, the instrumented world can not only detect misuse and waste of resources but it will also contribute to environment waste. Consider the fact that the Internet is generating about 5% of the heat in the world. How much will that percent increase when we add billions of other devices. Also, consider the shelf-life of something in the IoT world. Whereas you might have changed the electrical socket in your home every 50 years or your light fittings every 10-15 years we now must consider, with our ‘smart home automation,’ that we need to re-equip our home automation devices more frequently to access the latest accoutrement or to prevent our homes being hacked as devices become exposed (is that the sound of the toilet flushing again?). What happens to the old equipment and what are the environmental factors that need to be considered when that happens.

IoT is a disruptive technology with lots of opportunity (forecast $USD 19 trillion, 11% of the world’s economy by 2025) and it will have a direct impact on our lives in every aspect for everything we do, but that makes it exciting and challenging. I look forward to the ‘Minority Report’ world of tomorrow where everything can be tracked and the volume of data, the insight into events, the security we need to protect not just ourselves, but also our environment and our economy, will be our future challenges. And I look forward to Rocket Software participating in resolving these challenges and meeting the needs of our customers in the future and its truly connected world.

 

Credits:

Rocket Software – John Jenkins (CX Engineer) – Internet of Things presentation 2016

Sparkfun.com/news/1814 – Internet of Tools for your Internet of Things: Part 1

Temboo.com

Wikipedia.com

Vinnie Smith

Vinnie Smith 3 Posts

Managing Director of the MultiValue Development Labs at Rocket Software, brings over 30 years of MultiValue experience to the role. Vinnie started his career at SystemBuilder in the mid-1980s. Originally from the UK, Vinnie is a proud scouser (from Liverpool) with the accent to prove it. Vinnie now resides in Colorado with his wife, where he enjoys being the father of four and playing golf in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

2 Comments

  • Jing Cui

    Jing Cui Reply

    October 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Excellent write up. Indeed we are living in an increasingly connected world and its impact on environment and society has just began to be grappled. I just came back from this year’s ISC2 Security Congress and IoT security is a hot topic. Malicious bots have been already roaming around and breaching into all kinds of IoT devices wracking havoc. You just can’t believe how many IoT makers (hardware and yes, software as well) are there making absurdly bad security mistakes and pushing such products onto market, basically creating a silent army of potentially bad agents to cause big problems any day the bad guys want. It seems that IOT is another technology that went ahead of its time, bring benefits as well as vulnerabilities along with it. As a consumer we need to keep this in mind when we go ahead adding such devices in our home, cars…. As a software maker we need to think security first when we develop software.

  • Pete Johnson

    Pete Johnson Reply

    October 5, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I agree, this is a great write-up that really puts IoT into perspective. It’s here, and it’s going to get much bigger. Internet connected sensors and devices are becoming more pervasive by the day and security becomes an even more serious issue now that vulnerabilities can affect our environment and even our bodies. Some of the more recent thinking around this identifies “blockchain” as a solution for many reasons – it’s decentralized, requires little computational power, and allows for very simple authentication, security, and control layers written in unforgable code. With 2nd-gen blockchain networks like Ethereum quickly gaining traction with developers, “smart contracts” can execute automatically based on rules and input. This opens up a world of possibilities for IoT applications. Check out these two articles:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/delltechnologies/2017/06/27/how-blockchain-could-revolutionize-the-internet-of-things/#7b90b0456eab

    https://securityintelligence.com/ethereum-a-second-generation-blockchain-for-the-iot/

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