• The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution (Part 2 of 2)

By Daniel Lee | 17th November 2015


Undeniably, IoT and smart devices will soon be intertwined with the society of the future, and like any potentially game-changing technologies, complications are bound to arise as a result of widespread adoption of these devices across the consumer and business landscapes. With all of its obvious advantages, it is easy to overlook potential problems such as security, privacy and digital fatigue. They represent a mix of both opportunity and risk and like all things, the challenge lies in finding a balance between the two.


Security

As of today, there is yet to be an industrial consensus on how to properly implement security in IoT devices. This is far from ideal, as these devices collect, store and analyze massive amounts of personal information over the Internet such as usage patterns, conversations, vital information, location, bank account information etc. The problem is further amplified by the fact that many companies who are entering the IoT and smart devices sphere are startups without the proper security infrastructure in place. An experiment done by Kaspersky (2015) demonstrated how easy it was to hack into smart home devices, fitness bands and even a police surveillance system with some finesse by someone who knows what they are doing. By hacking into the fitness band for example, they were able to easily extract location information about the user.

Sure enough, there is a ‘terms and conditions’ section that comes with every product you purchase, but how many people actually read them? According to a survey done by Fairer Finance (2014), only 27% of the people surveyed actually read the fine print, and only 17% say they actually understand it. A further study by HP (2015) of ten popular IoT devices found that there was an average of 25 security flaws per device, seven of which had critical vulnerabilities. A separate study by Symantec (2014) found that nearly 20% of the sports band and smart watches analyzed sent out passwords without encrypting them.

To make matters worse, many users often neglect to set strong passwords on smart devices and to change them on a regular basis. These same users also seem perfectly fine with divulging highly personal information as part of smartphone apps, subscription plans, mailing lists, surveys and social media integration. Many devices now allow users to use their Facebook accounts as login to many applications, including smart devices. A picture posted by Organic Marketing (2015) pokes fun at Facebook by saying that they “know more about you than the FBI”.

 
facebook fbi

Source: Organic Marketing (2015)

These vulnerabilities can have severe repercussions to users if not properly addressed, raising a myriad of privacy issues on top of security flaws. Imagine your web camera being activated and used to spy on you without your knowledge, or your home automation devices that are hijacked and used to monitor your every move at home.


Privacy

With the massive amounts of personal data being circulated on the Internet, the ownership of these data raises a big concern. In 2013 for example, a smart TV built by LG Electronics was collecting information about users’ viewing habits without their consent, even whilst the feature is turned off. To make matters worse, the names of files on external devices being connected to the TV and network shares was being sent back to LG’s servers. Later, LG Electronics released an update that asked customers to accept a modified privacy policy that gives LG the right to collect viewing, voice and device usage information. Should customers refuse to accept this privacy policy, certain features of the Smart TV will be made unavailable, forcing users to choose between increased privacy and a ‘dumbed down’ Smart TV.

While it is true that the collected information can be used to improve your viewing experience and the company’s future products, this is done at the sake of a user having to divulge their personal viewing habits. The fact is, many users do not bother to scour through layers of terms and conditions to figure out their new device’s privacy settings. Even if they did, many do not bother figuring out how exactly to switch these privacy settings off. The underlying question is: “are you willing to trade off your privacy for intelligence?” Identity theft is another issue that could arise along with these smart devices.

These cyber thefts are able to use your personal information against you, e.g. to impersonate you or access different areas of your digital life including bank account information, social media logins and emails. ‘Anonymous’, a group known for high-profile hacks are notorious for hacking into federal sites and disclosing classified information to the public. If it can happen to government sites (which are supposed to have the highest level of security), then it can surely happen to you. They could use your credit card information to make online purchases or use your login information to access your files and expose your personal life, harming your reputation. If you own a business, they could access your company email and letterhead to send out false invoices to your clients, requesting them to make transfers to offshore bank accounts.


Digital Fatigue

Digital devices have become an integral part of our daily lives, and will be increasingly so in the future. We have come to a point where we cannot imagine a life without smartphones, seem to lose touch with the world without the Internet and where there is seemingly a device (or gadget) for everything. We have become so reliant on the digital-of-everything that we are overloading ourselves with them both at work and at play. IoT and smart devices worsen this by connecting devices to one another. We refer to this as ‘digital fatigue’ or more eloquently put, the ‘too-many-screens syndrome’. In the gym for example, a woman on a treadmill listens to her iPod while checking her FitBit for calories burned, sends a quick email on her smartphone, then continues watching the television when she is done; just another day at the gym.

The introduction of IoT smart devices and wearable devices will spur an even greater level of reliance on the digital. On one hand, these devices offer an unprecedented level of interconnectedness, convenience and productivity but on the other, they are taxing both mentally and physically. People are bringing their work home, browsing Facebook while having dinner with family, and chatting with friends online over messengers instead of face-to-face. Watches are not just watches anymore, they are smart devices which record everything from heart rate to calories burned to steps taken. The Nike Fuel Band even lets you set daily goals and tabulates data at the end of the day to inform you if you have reached your daily goal.

Conclusions

The first step as a consumer would be to educate yourself and gain a better understanding of IoT, smart devices and their applications, implications and what it could mean to the consumer landscape and yourself. Fully grasp the functionalities and features of your device in order to gain full control of your product and learn their limitations. These devices add considerable value to your life, allowing you to be ever more connected and increase your productivity yet at the same time, they cause you to detach yourself from your immediate surroundings.

When developing a smart device, it may be viable to work with a partner with an insider’s view into developing these sort of products, making sure that they possess the relevant technical expertise and understand the relevant industries, and most importantly, to share the same vision for your product as you do. With a Virgil.ant solution, you will be equipped with the best in-class product development, supply chain management and engineering team.


Here at Sourcing Overseas, we are committed to ensuring that your next big idea for a blockbuster IoT product gets developed and manufactured correctly in a cost-effective manner. Armed with decades of combined engineering, supply chain management and product development experience, and with a track record to show for, we are confident that we are able to deliver your products in a timely manner with quality to impress. Contact us now to receive a free project review.



Sources:

Appadvice 2015, viewed 19 September 2015, http://appadvice.com/appnn/2015/10/the-weekly-echo-how-can- we-secure-the-internet-of-things>CBS News 2015, viewed 5 October 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-your-internet-home-devices- could-be-hacked/http:Kaspersky 2015, viewed 2 October 2015, https://blog.kaspersky.com/internet-of-crappy-things/7667>Seattle Times 2015, viewed 23 September 2015, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/beware-of-digital-overload- and-technology-fatigue>Symantec 2015, viewed 28 September 2015, http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/how-safe-your- quantified-self-t https://blog.kaspersky.com/internet-of-crappy- things/7667/ racking-monitoring-and-wearable-tech

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