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Double-Edged Internet of Things

Double-Edged IoT

by Jessie Kang

 

“Before you know it, everyone is going to know that your refrigerator told your TV to notify you that you’re running low on milk.”
-Jordan Timmerman, Co-President of EPIC

 

The world of entrepreneurship and especially tech has grown incredibly sensitive to cringeworthy buzzwords, and in a space in which everyone claims to be innovative, buzzwords are uncomfortably common. Let’s make a bingo board of them and take it to a startup conference: “Big Data,” “Clouds,” “Disruptive,” And even more recently, The Internet of Things is a hot one.

To most people, the Internet of Things sounds like… the future. Smartphones were just the beginning! Everything, everywhere, automating and optimizing every single aspect of our lives. It definitely provides rich brain food for our imagination. Just think: you wake up in the morning, your pillow tells you about your heart rate, cholesterol levels, and quality of sleep, and then your bathroom mirror tells you what you have in your fridge so you can decide what to have for breakfast to keep that cholesterol level in check, while you wash up.

However, it’s easy to get lost in the potential glamour of this prospect and miss the glaring problem. Do we really want more internet and technology in our homes and streets? Clever use of personal information has made our lives easier, of course. For example, targeted marketing allows us to see advertisements about products in which we would actually be interested – I would rather see advertisements of “100 new styles of boots” over “diapers now 30% off.” But even this application of information is controversial. There are already many voices of concern about the astronomical quantity of data we have available to us, more than we know what to do with, and the ethical use of such data.

The Internet of Things possibly represents an exponential increase in the amount of data available to us, data concerning our personal lives collected from wherever these devices could be installed (which could be anywhere, for better or for worse). And with more data, as well as the introduction of more channels, it is becoming easier to abuse the information and infiltrate people’s privacy; this is  a nightmare to cyber security, and an opportunity – for lack of a better catchall term – for criminals.

Could the Internet of Things make our lives better? Yes. We could predict problems before they happen. We could increase efficiency in all aspects of work. We could save lives. But until there’s some way this information could be harnessed effectively and treated carefully, we’re not ready for the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Things is not ready for us, either.