This year is set to be a big growth year for so called ‘smart technologies’ from tooth brushes that spot dirty teeth to fridges that will tell you when there’s a problem with the temperature there certainly are a vast array of devices claiming to be smart becoming available. But are they really all that?
One of the things that I’m starting to see is technology that has the smart moniker but without doing any that’s actually clever. Take the Kinsa Smart Thermometer, it’s a thermometer that is ‘smart’ because it plugs into your phone and could potentially diagnose a health condition. However, it’s completely stupid because you need to have a phone. I have a thermometer with a screen built in and that feels like the smart thing. This has led to smart being the moniker for ‘has an app’ or ‘needs your phone’. Needing a phone creates a new issue, what if your phone is flat? Or more likely, what if you have a phone that isn’t supported? iPhone seems to be the first port of call for developers but Android has the larger market and then there are nations where Windows phone is more popular. After taking that into account the thermometer is no longer smart, it’s an expensive paperweight at best.
The other kind of device that flies the flag of smart is the Internet of things or IoT device. There are a bewildering array of devices from thermostats to fridges that plug or wirelessly connect to your internet connection and feed you or the devices. A lot of these devices are already becoming the norm like Nest thermostats and Sonos speakers but there are a number of cheaper devices that pose another problem for smart tech that is more serious. Security.
Case in point. The great thing about the PC I’m typing this on is that weekly I receive patches from Microsoft to fix problems and likewise so does my anti-virus and firewall, I regularly make sure my router is up to date. On customer sites I make sure gateways retain the highest level of security blocking unnecessary ports and the like and on bigger projects I’ve watched as potential hackers bounce off our systems IPS systems. A huge amount of the internet of things devices do not offer such protection and more often than not require the end user to log in and manually upload patches and that creates a problem.
Unsecure devices plague the internet, Wired did a great rundown of how widespread an issue this is back in December 2015 and things are only going to get worse as more manufacturers turn to enable there devices to connect to the internet. With criminals and the Government leveraging vulnerabilities against us the internet of things feels less appealing, but, it isn’t all doom and gloom.
Fortunately, there are currently manufactures and foundations like theInternet of Things Security Foundation who are working to better the security of these devices. With an increasing number of high profile breaches of smart devices consumers will want to know that their devices are secure. Once smart tech has overcome the problems with security and found unique and useful purposes smart tech will takeover but, for now I don’t think it’s as close as analysts and manufactures want us to think.