A Closer Look at IOT (Internet of Things)

 In my last Blog entry I wrote that IOT would be a megatrend that would revolutionize building operations by imbedding machine addressable technology in every aspect of the built environment. IOT is not new. In fact the technology has been around since the late 1990s. Gartner estimates that there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.

Virtually all aspects of society will be transformed by IOT particularly infrastructure, manufacturing, and energy management systems. Large scale deployments are currently underway globally.  “For example, Songdo, South Korea, the first of its kind fully equipped and wired smart city, is near completion. Nearly everything in this city is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analyzed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention.”

Because of the enormous number and complexity of devices connected to the internet, technology pundits believe that a new protocol – Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) will be implemented that will allow virtually all human-made objects to communicate over the internet. “The internet of objects would encode 50 to 100 trillion objects and be able to follow the movement of these objects. Human beings living in urban environments will each be surrounded by 1000 to 5000 trackable objects.”

IOT is not without controversy. The potential for massive surveillance and other invasions of privacy worry critics. Here are a few quotations about these issues: (all quotations from Wikipedia)

Justin Brookman, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, expressed concern regarding the impact of IOT on consumer privacy, saying that "There are some people in the commercial space who say, ‘Oh, big data — well, let’s collect everything, keep it around forever, we’ll pay for somebody to think about security later.’ The question is whether we want to have some sort of policy framework in place to limit that."

Tim O’Reilly, founder of Open Source, who popularized the term “open source”  believes that the way companies sell the IOT devices on consumers are misplaced, disputing the notion that IOT is about gaining efficiency from putting all kinds of devices online and postulating that "IOT is really about human augmentation. The applications are profoundly different when you have sensors and data driving the decision-making."

Editorials at WIRED have also expressed concern, one stating 'what you’re about to lose is your privacy. Actually, it’s worse than that. You aren’t just going to lose your privacy; you’re going to have to watch the very concept of privacy be rewritten under your nose.”

The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) expressed concern regarding the ability of IOT to erode people's control over their own lives. The ACLU wrote that "There’s simply no way to forecast how these immense powers -- disproportionately accumulating in the hands of corporations seeking financial advantage and governments craving ever more control -- will be used. Chances are Big Data and the Internet of Things will make it harder for us to control our own lives, as we grow increasingly transparent to powerful corporations and government institutions that are becoming more opaque to us.”

If you’ve watched the new CBS series “Cyber NCIS,” you get a sense of how IOT could wreak havoc on the populace. Episodes have envisioned how IOT has taken over the control of automobiles, airliners, and drones, with disastrous results. And one episode followed a terrorist plot that used IOT to detonate a bomb.

The Internet of Things will transform building and real estate management but we should be vigilant to the dark side of this technology. In the wake of the recent Paris attacks, we shudder at the prospects of extremists using this stuff to attack our homeland.