Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Internet of Things, y’know, that rapidly approaching scenario that sees more and more everyday objects get Internet connectivity.
Half of me is really excited, as this is a real glimpse into the future. Heck, the IoT can already help people do a lot of things, such as monitor their health, manage their home or reduce their environmental impact—and that’s just for starters. Who knows what’ll be possible in twenty years time, or fifty.
But (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?), the skeptical half of me is wondering if we have really thought this through. As more devices communicate with each other and, more importantly, affect each other’s behavior, don’t we risk a nightmare scenario in which villains and terrorists can hijack our technology? A scenario in which hackers can target anything from fridges and factories, to traffic lights and water treatment plants.
This seems to be exactly the opinion of computer security specialist Bruce Schneier. In a recent interview (which makes makes troubling, but interesting reading), Schneier states:
There’s nothing you can do. This is very much like the computer field in the ‘90s. No one’s paying any attention to security, no one’s doing updates, no one knows anything - it’s all really, really bad and it’s going to come crashing down.
Which is not exactly confidence inspiring …
Personally, I’m torn in two—I don’t know whether to embrace it with both arms or run a mile.
But what do you think? Is the Internet of Things ten kinds of awesome (and if so, what are you using it for), or is it our first glimpse of an imminent dystopian nightmare?
P.S. In case you missed it the first time round, it’s good for some humor, too. Allow me to introduce the Internet of Useless Things.
This editorial will appear in this week’s issue of the SitePoint Newsletter.