It is a big buzz word right now and will probably continue to be for some years to come as the Internet of Things, often abbreviated to IoT, becomes more and more pervasive.
So what is it? It is what some call “smart devices”. Imagine your lights, TV, heating and various appliances all connected to the internet, talking to each other and controllable by you, either by smartphone or voice control. Does that sound like the future? Something out of science fiction? Well, it is and many companies have started their first steps to making it a reality.
Each device is intended to communicate it’s status, or be controlled remotely, via WiFi, Bluetooth, radio frequencies or internet connection. And ultimately each device communicates back via the data network, within your house, or to cloud servers on the internet.
Progress has been made with voice control, Amazon Echo, Google Home, to name a few.
Currently, I see a number of potential drawbacks, namely:
- Open standards – each company is doing their own thing, typically with a central hub and multiple connected devices, all from the same company. It is hard to mix and match because there are no real standards yet
- Cost – partly because of the technology is in it’s infancy, but also partly because each vendor ties you into it’s ecosystem, it can be damned expensive
- Security – How secure are these things? In many ways it is such a new area, that well defined security standards haven’t been defined and there is limited real lift testing. All software has bugs, and requires frequent updates to close security holes that are found. What happens if your front door lock and household alarm is hacked? And who is responsible?
- Reliance and robustness – What happens if the system relies on cloud based systems, or just the internet generally, and your internet connection goes down. Or if the power goes out and your door is locked.
These things will be worked out, in time. In the meanwhile, it will be the early adopters who feel the pain of any challenges, but who also reap the benefits of the new technology.
Where are you on the diffusion on innovation curve?
My first tentative steps involved buying an Amazon Echo device. It is quite impressive, but after a while, it has ended up being used predominantly for short news updates and for playing music, all via voice command. I am about to embark on an exploration of DIY IoT, using Raspberry Pi as the cornerstone of my environment. I will document my progress on that here.