IoT

The Internet of Things – What is it?

The Internet of things is a collective term for all the various devices, products and wearables that can connect to each other, and to the Internet as well.

Whilst the idea of devices talking to each other, electronically, has been around for some time, the reason the Internet of Things has become a huge concept in more recent times is because of the sheer volume of devices and products that can access the Internet.

Various experts predict growth in the market of the Internet of things to be so huge over  the next 5/10 years that it is almost impossible to put it into any sort of context.

What is undoubtedly true is that there is a relentless drive by manufacturers of every single product to make sure that they are able to connect their device wirelessly to the Internet.

This has huge  implications, not only for the nature of society and how it will change, but for people’s privacy, the control of the information that pertains to their life and their security and well-being.

Moral questions aside, perhaps the most potent issue is that of cyber security and cyber insurance.

Given that in a  few years time virtually everything we own, drive and wear is likely to be connected to the internet wether we like it is or not, the potential risks in terms of some type of cyber attack are enormous, and there are significant implications for people’s safety, both physically and emotionally and financially.

How these risks are managed and understood, both by way of minimising them and insuring against them is a major challenge that has yet to be clearly addressed.

Internet of Things and Smart Homes.

When people think of the internet of things they normally think of smart homes and smart home devices. This is largely because most examples of the Internet of things have tended to paint a picture of how wireless devices will make people’s lives easier by automating normal everyday functions, whether it be driving home from work, fixing the evening meal, automating lights and music in the home, controlling heating levels etc.

Whether normal people actually find the idea of this attractive or not is debatable, but what is clear that virtually all current devices and products that are now being built and produced for the home will contain internet capability.

This is true whether it be a smart television, a baby alarm, a refrigerator or a washing machine. What is also likely is that these devices will be switched on by default, and it is not clear yet whether there will be any capability for turning them off so you are not wirelessly collected.

There is also a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that a lot of major companies are pushing out products that have internet capability with a speed that is more about getting to market quickly and riding on the wave of popularity that the internet of things seems to be generating, than it is about really understanding the security  implications of what they are doing.

What’s this means is that there may be many products that are reaching market that has not been fully tested or manufactured with security in mind, and may need continual software updates or patches to make sure they are secure.

The risk of a cyber attack in a smart home mirrors many of the current risks that a business or organisation will face in its current day-to-day operations.

The dangers inherent in smart hones are not so much that someone’s refrigerator is at risk of attack, but that someone can access a person’s home network through one of these devices, such as a baby alarm or a washing machine, and through that gain access to the  individual or families private data.

Wearables

When people talk about the Internet of things they are also talking about wearables. These can currently only be best thought of as smart watches and fit bit devices. The last couple of years show that  major tech companies have been experimenting with different types of wearables, such as glasses, watches and even tattoos as a way of connecting people to the Internet by things that are a part of their body or apparel.

What is really important to realise here is the principle. That tech companies wants to find at least one wearable that people feel comfortable having on them at all times that can access the internet.

Obviously from a tech company’s point of view it is preferable to have more than one, but one will do. For this reason major tech companies will happily experiment with different types of wearables until they find one that really hits the market.

The implications for wearables are pretty much the same as for those of a smart home.

The fact that an individual will have something connected to their body that is internet accessible means that they are much more at risk of a cyber attack, with all the security implications already mentioned.

Wearables are not simply about phones and glasses.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that manufacturers of clothes, shoes, shirts etc are looking at ways of inserting internet access and internet products, probably by way of some type of barcode, that would give them information about individual and their shopping habits.

There is also anecdotal evidence of manufacturers of  pillows and bed clothing doing the same thing, again under the pretext of collecting information about how an individual sleeps and  various sleep patterns.

Often, once people understand the implications of how their life will be fully monitored 24 seven via access to the Internet, there is some shift towards a fight against it in terms of privacy and control of their data.

Whilst both these areas are hugely important, they sometimes skew perhaps an even greater need for the understanding of cyber security and cyber insurance to minimise and manage these risks with some degree of safety.

Internet of Things and Autos

In the space of only a few years, most manufacturers of cars and trucks are talking about and developing autonomous vehicles.. No one really seems to be asking the question why, there is a general assumption, often untested, that it is about safety, and that somehow self driving cars and trucks are safer than those with a human behind the wheel.

It is worth going back to the original Google car that was the first self driving vehicle.

That had nothing to do with safety at all. Google’s first car, that resembled more of the old bubble car, was designed with one particular aim in mind. It saw the commuter market, particularly in the West Coast, where people would sit in their cars in gridlocked traffic for approximately fours a day, two hours each way, doing nothing other than look at the scenery around them.

Google saw these cars as opportunities to provide consumers with content that could carry advertising. This meant that if the car could drive itself, the individual could spend time either watching content or playing with content, having a screen in the middle of the car and not having  to worry about where it was going.

As manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon of this, the narrative slightly changed and people started talking about safety.

Quite where it will end up is unclear, but what is clear is that  the trend in most modern cars is to turn them more into infotainment centers than vehicles than can be driven on highways and byways.

The rise in the use of technology in cars, both inside the engine and inside the vehicle itself, is enormous.

What this also means is that the security implications are huge as well.

There seem to be too likely scenarios that are likely to develop in the future. One is the rise of  autonomous cars that drive themselves with no human involvement  at all, the other scenario is where technology is used to automate a number of functions within the vehicle, largely around safety, but with a human driver still in  overall control of the vehicle.

Both scenarios are likely to coexist for a significant period of time, and both have fairly obvious cyber security implications.

The most common threat that is talked about is where someone manages to take control of the vehicle remotely by way of hacking into the cars various systems, and this is obviously a very real threat.

The other major threat, less often talked about, is where someone manages to access the cars computing system through the individuals smart phone, which will largely be used to control most of the on-board Internet access.

Once someone has managed to hack into a smart phone, then it’s open season for all the information contained therein, whether it relates to banking details, credit cards, passwords etc.

It is not clear yet how auto insurance or car insurance will manage and insure these risks.

One reason for this is simply that at the moment it is very difficult to quantify these risks, let alone assess who is responsible for them, and what can be done to minimise them. One thing is likely, which is that the risk of a cyber attack will undoubtedly increase the cost of an individual’s car insurance, whether it is an autonomous vehicle or not.

Agriculture and Energy Management

There are many areas in business and commerce where the internet of things can undoubtedly speed up production and efficiency, logistics and inventory control. There is likely to be a significant cost in terms of human labour, but history seems to suggest that companies don’t worry about this too much.

Two areas that are worth looking at briefly are those of agriculture and energy management. Agriculture especially because it relates to the food that we would eat, and the internet of things could dramatically alter the nature of farming and farming techniques.

Energy management is the other area, which has a direct link to smart homes and the use of energy in businesses and factories. One of the great selling points of the internet of things  is that it can make people’s homes more energy efficient, thus saving them money and conserving energy and fuel at the same time.

Energy management is already a crucial issue in society, even if not all politicians are open to doing what needs doing to effect climate change.

The internet of things has the potential  to manage all types of energy industries and infrastructures with a much greater degree of efficiency and safety. This also means that there is much greater scope for a cyber attack, either around the issue of nuclear plants or oil and gas installations etc.

Again the issue from a cyber security and insurance point of view is assessing the level of risk, understanding how best to minimise that risk, and arranging some type of cyber insurance that can effectively deal with the implications and reality of any type of cyber attack or disruption.

Smart Cities

There is also a lot of talk of smart cities. This is where cities use the collective data generated by all the internet of things within a city or town, generated by cars, sensors, Wi-Fi networks, peoples wearable’s etc as a way of planning urban development  in a more efficient and productive manner.

Again the security implications are significant, as more and more people generate more and more information and data, that is collected and analysed, then there is obviously a greater risk of that data being accessed and stolen, with real implications in terms of cyber security and identity theft.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is a collective term for hundreds of devices that can connect to the internet wirelessly, and possibly connect to each other as well.

Some of the most common questions asked are :

What is the Internet of Things?

What are Internet of Things Devices?

How Does the Internet of Things Work?

How do IoT Devices Communicate with Each Other?

What is a Smart Device?

Whilst wireless devices are not new, what is new is the growth, and anticipated growth, in such devices, which is massive and set to explode in the next five or ten years. Many of these devices, which cover all areas of modern life, are being rushed to market, often with inherent security weakness’s as a result.

The Internet of Things is perhaps best understood by the following scenario.

Driving home from work, your car automatically detects that you are approaching home. Your car automatically opens your garage doors, turns on the lighting in your home, turns on the central heating in your home, switches your oven on, starts playing your favourite music that it has taken from your playlists on your smartphone.

As you get into your garage, you see the groceries that have been automatically delivered to your home. This was done buy your refrigerator realising that it had run low on a number of items and had contacted your local grocery store.

The grocery store had updated your normal inventory, automatically debited the money from your bank account and delivered your groceries. To some people, this scenario sounds like a dream, to others like a nightmare.

In any event, the Internet of Things refers to a world Web watch everything is connected wirelessly, with a huge range of privacy and cyber security implications involved. To people who think the above scenario is a kind of fairytale, the reality is that it is happening at the moment.

It is being driven by the major tech companies in the same way that cell phones and smart phones were being driven by phone companies a few years ago.

The range of Internet connected devices and wearables and products is growing at a huge rate, and it is only a matter of time before the Internet of Things, a wirelessly connected world, becomes more of a reality.

INTERNET of THINGS – SMART HOME

The smart home has become the focus of where the Internet of things is seen as developing, see Amazon’s Echo, but is closely followed by the healthcare industry where wireless connection of devices is already gathering significant momentum. Other areas of industry and finance and commerce are moving forward a pace as well.

The issues concerning cyber security are enormous, and the need for some type of cyber insurance staggering. If everything that you own, buy or wear can be connected wirelessly to the Internet, then it can also be theoretically hacked, or have some other way of some type of malware installed in the system.

This means potentially an individuals home is at risk, their car is at risk, their body is at risk if they have something like a pacemaker fitted, their pet is at risk if it is microchiped, as well as all their day-to-day activities being at risk such as banking, shopping etc, especially if being done on a smart phone or mobile device.

The other way that the Internet of things impacts hugely on cyber security is simply that any employee or volunteer will be taking their connected life with them into their place of employment or work, meaning that anything on or about them that is wirelessly connected will then feed into the IT infrastructure of their place of work.

This means that any organisation or businesses IT systems and networks can immediately be exposed to a wide range of wearables and devices that the IT system administrators have no real control over.

This of itself poses significant risks in terms of a data breach, in addition to the unpredictability of whatever wearable or device an individual may unwittingly bring into their place of employment or work.

 

What are Smart Home Systems?

Smart home systems refer to a variety of different and overlapping electrical and wireless systems that will enable a smart home or a smart house to function as a combined whole unit.

Central to understanding the nature of the systems is an understanding of the basis of what a smart home is and the various technologies that underpin it. The idea of a smart home has been around for a long time, in fact in many ways it is one of the oldest science fiction dreams that is on the verge of becoming a reality.

The typical scenario that shows the potential of a smart home normally involves someone driving home from work in their smart car. As they approach their home, their smart car communicates with their garage, and their garage doors open automatically as they arrive.

In addition, as they arrive home, their smart car will connect with their home, their lights will automatically come on within the home, their heating will come on and so will their appropriate kitchen devices, such as their oven waiting to pre-cook their dinner.

A further scenario includes their groceries being delivered at the exact moment they arrive home.

Smart home systems

This has happened because that smart refrigerator has realised that they are running low on certain items, has automatically contacted their local grocery store who have assembled the items and delivered them automatically to their home.

The grocery store new when to deliver them by accessing the drivers online calendar and working out the exact point when they would be home.

In addition the grocery store would automatically charge the amount of the groceries to the drivers credit card, which they have on account, and the amount on the credit card would be automatically debited from the drivers bank account through an online banking facility.

A few years ago, this scenario or these scenarios would have seemed far-fetched. Today they are the verge of becoming a reality for anyone who wants them. Quite literally billions of devices are being fitted with sensors that will allow them to connect to each other wirelessly over the internet, a scenario commonly referred to as the internet of things.

Smart home systems tend to be the various types of systems that would be used within a smart home such as an alarm system, a security system, a lighting control system, an audio system, a technology system and perhaps even a complete smart phone system.

In addition that will need to be a smart home management system both to coordinate all these activities, and to be able to manage them in the event of any one of them not working.  At the moment it is anticipated that the systems are will be controlled through an app or apps through someone’s smart phone, but this could well change in the future.

The push by the big tech companies to move to voice recognition technology seems to imply that this is their preferred mode of co-ordinating the mechanics of a smart home. What is perhaps being overlooked is the cyber security implications and risks inherent within any such system.

What is a Smart Home Security System?

Most people would probably give slightly different answer to the question of what is a home security system, let alone a smart home security system.

Any security system in a home is often thought of largely as an alarm system, possibly coupled nowadays with various types of CCTV cameras and other types of technology that can alert and detect intruders.

A home security system certainly can be that, but can also be a lot more.

The traditional method of securing a home has always been locks and mortar.

As time has gone on, technology has allowed more and more sophisticated devices to let people believe that home is safer.

A smart home, both now and in the future, is one where essentially all the systems and devices in the home can connect or talk to each other wirelessly, and can be centrally controlled either through a smart phone app or some type of voice recognition system.

Inevitably a smart home security system will consist of a combination of locks on windows and doors that can be controlled wirelessly, as well as a combination of burglar alarms, CCTV cameras and various other security devices.

Smart home security system

The proponents of a smart home security system will argue that the combination of all these factors, and the fact that they can be coordinated and controlled through a central wireless system makes the whole process of safeguarding and securing a home much easier.

That can certainly be debated, but to an extent misses the point.

While there certainly may be some advantages from a convenience view point of the ability to co-ordinate various connected devices, it does also leave someone’s home much more vulnerable to the possibility of being hacked.

The idea of cyber security and internet safety is one that most people are probably aware of, even if it is only the notion of computer viruses and computer malware.

Most people who have a PC or tablet in their home are likely to have some type of antivirus software installed, may or may not have a firewall activated and most likely don’t take the risk of being hacked to seriously.

The scenario changes significantly in the event of a smart home existing, and a smart home security system being the main or only line of defence against any intruder or unwelcome visitor.

There are already many anecdotal instances of baby monitor alarms being hacked by individuals who then use that device to say things and shout things that will upset or disturb the baby or child near the device.

Whilst these reports are certainly disturbing in themselves, they should also be disturbing to the manufacturers of these devices.

The vulnerability of these devices lies not only in the devices themselves, but in the continual upgrades they will need over their lifetime in order to keep them secure.

What is an IoT Platform

In order to understand an IOT platform, it is first necessary to understand what IOT means, both literally and in terms of its implications for the future world, both business and personal in the next five or 10 years.

IOT stands quite simply for the Internet of things.

This is a phrase that has been around for a long time, but is rapidly coming to fruition and is likely to dominate the way people, places and things communicate with each other in the future.

The internet of things is quite simply in a way the process of  how devices are wirelessly connected to each other, producing what is quite often referred to as areas such as a smart home or a smart car.

The scenario of a smart home has been around for a while in the realms of science fiction, but is now becoming a reality.

All household devices are being fitted with sensors that will allow them to be wirelessly connected to the Internet.

In addition cities are being fitted with sensors that will allow them to track cars, bicycles and all forms of  transportation.

The clothes that people wear, the food they eat, where they live, where they work, how they get to work, where they do their shopping, where they go on holiday, how they pay for their life etc will soon all be linked together online.

IOT PLATFORM

To many people this seems like a joyful existence, to many others a living nightmare. In either event the networked world will soon become a reality whether people like it or not, driven in large part by businesses and companies .

They will be to make huge savings by effectively automating a number of processes, and by ruthlessly mining  big data, which is essentially the information that will be generated by all these devices talking to each other.

And IOT platform is essentially a platform that will allow this to happen. There are currently estimated to be 3 or 400 IOT platforms, some proprietary, some open source and some big players such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

At the moment and IOT platform can mean different things to different people.

The development of these platforms has been compared to the growth of the Internet in its early stages, where Netscape and Microsoft tried to establish dominance of browsers and  Yahoo and Altavista tried to dominate the search market.

At the moment it is most impossible to identify specifically what an IOT platform is for this particular reason. As time goes on and devices develop, the infrastructure will inevitably grow around them.