It might be argued that currently many people have little interest in smart connected devices much less Internet of Things security. But so powerful are the combined commercial interests that are driving this new technology wave that smart devices will soon be as common as electric kettles. And before we know it we’ll accept and use smart technology with as little thought as when we plug in a kettle. To give you a sense of what’s coming we’ve outlined some areas where you’re set to see the growing introduction of IoT. But you shouldn’t blindly accept these technologies just yet, because there are fundamental flaws that device manufacturers don’t tell you about. Read on.

 

Have you ever thought how you would get by if you had to spend a working day without a smartphone, no access to email or social networks and unable to access a cash point. It might be a bit of a struggle to get by.

It’s striking to realise how profoundly digital technologies have almost invisibly embedded themselves into the everyday fabric of life. This has come about in a relatively short space of time and can be traced to the birth of the mainstream web and the connection of data, systems, and people.

With the advent of the Internet of Everything this connectivity is going to extend to physical objects too. In fact it is already taking shape and billions of smart devices are already part of the global connected network thanks to embedded connectivity in consumer electronic devices, home appliances and cars.

But this is only the first bugle sound that announces a much larger wave coming up right behind it. Predictions vary but there seems to be a general consensus that by 2020 there will be upwards of 20 billion connected devices in place, ranging from home electronics to vehicles, industrial machines, infrastructure such as water and power, and wearables.

In the domestic arena, the Internet of Things (IoT) is driven by the smartphone revolution as much as anything else. These powerful pocket computers provide the communications infrastructure for IoT with the mobile web, sensors and connectivity. There are already 2.6 billion smartphone users in the world, slated to be 6 billion by 2020.

With this is mind let’s take a look at how IoT is predicted to play out practically across a range of everyday areas. But first keep in mind that a lot of these IoT devices have already moved from the drawing board into production and it’s just a matter of time before they become main stream.

The Home

The home is going to be one of the most visible areas where we will see embedded IoT.

Smart thermostats for instance will learn about how you use energy in the home and allow you to control appliances from your phone potentially making savings of up to 20% on energy bills.

There will be sofas that can be touch adjusted for temperature, firmness and angle based on your specifications while personalized TV recommendations using voice commands and fingerprint touch identification will become a norm.

Sinks that can adjust water temperatures for specific tasks, save water by tracking usage will be operated via voice commands. Wastewater will also be recycled for use in the home.

Ovens will be able to set themselves and monitor temperatures while fridges will includes inventory control and temperature gauges.

Sound systems will play different music in different rooms depending on the person in the room and also know what volume levels to set. Beds will track movement and through integration with a thermostat adjust temperatures for the best sleep.

Lights will be on timers that dim and get brighter depending on the time of day. You will be able to control the lights through your phone or voice, and the lighting will help you gently wake up in the morning

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Smart connected cars

We’re already witnessing the advent of autonomous self-driving cars though it’s still early days. But certainly connected cars are already here.

At the least there will be ‘driver assistance’ technologies that can improve or take over the actual performance of the car. Systems are already available that can automatically park a car in tight spots, autonomously steer the car, brake for obstructions, and speed up and slow-down in traffic jams.

A raft of safety technologies will be incorporated including external danger warnings for drivers such as severe weather and hazardous road conditions ahead. There will also be electronic windshields that automatically adjust to shield the sun’s glare.

A prominent feature will be in-car displays that stream messages and news and automatically interrupt when someone calls you, displaying an image of that person.

Concierge features will also alert drivers about the time to leave and arrival time. This same feature will send text message alerts to friends or business associates to let them know your arrival time.

Intelligent buildings

Much IoT technology woven into buildings will focus on energy conservation such as lights and heating that detect presence and adjust themselves accordingly.

But that said it will also segue into infrastructure maintenance. For instance intelligent sensors will detect pressure variation along pipes and communicate this information to avert water leaks.

Structural health monitoring will also be undertaken via analysis of vibrations and material conditions within the structure. IoT will also extend to the outside environment such as alerts to let you know about parking spaces as you approach the building.

IoT will also ramp up building security. Sensor networks, using a combination of audio, video, and vibration detection devices, will detect unauthorized individuals entering restricted areas.

IoT systems will also track the whereabouts of various items in a building through geo-location. Sensors will be more powerful and smaller than they are today and software will be more powerful, quickly analysing situations and sending alerts.

Smart cities

A smart city is a broad concept and one that can include many different things. This can range from streetlights and traffic signals managed wirelessly to reduce energy costs to sensors that monitor water mains for leaks to reduce repair costs.

Air quality can be monitored for high pollution levels, helpful for asthma sufferers while police can use video sensors to manage crowds or spot crimes. Sensors can determine when a car park is full and trigger messages to direct drivers to other car parking places.

Public transport systems will be interconnected, indeed an increasing number already are, enabling different public transports to be coordinated and to provide information in real time.

Road systems will inform drivers about which route is best at any given time and automatically manage traffic lights to reduce congestion to the minimum taking into account the traffic volume at certain times of the day.

Smart grids will provide the correct amount of electricity depending on demand so power efficiency will be maximized. Citizens will also be able to notify local authorities of damage to the urban environment via their smartphones, enabling quicker repairs.

Urban ads are also likely to be tailored to each citizen and advertising will provide services where people are able to buy, for example, concert tickets via an electronic ad billboard.

A warning

IoT has been hitting the headlines regularly over the past year but are people getting swept away by the concept that almost everything will be controlled by a smartphone?

Is the relentless advance in connected devices obscuring the voices of those who warn that there is a flipside to IoT?

Certainly many smart devices have fundamental security flaws. For instance, in healthcare patient monitoring systems that enable continuous tracking can be hacked providing a route into hospital networks.

There are many examples of smart connected cars being hacked leading to the recall of a huge number of vehicles while botnets based largely on hacked webcams have recently been discovered.

And analysis of data from BullGuard’s free IOT scanner reveals that in the UK alone, millions of households are potentially vulnerable to hacking.

IoT is a new wave of technology that promises to silently revolutionise ways in which we live our lives much like the web and smartphones have done. But if its potential is to be realised, IoT technology must be sufficiently developed to enable safe interconnectivity.

Currently, this is not the case. The reality is that in the commercial rush to market security has not been a priority for IoT device manufacturers.

IoT devices are typically simple to build but they often share their Wi-Fi credentials with other devices. If hackers intercept the password for a Wi-Fi network they can break into a connected home hub, which then provides access to any of the connected devices including door locks, motion detectors, sprinkler systems, and even the alarm system protecting a home.

Furthermore, there is currently no consensus on how to implement security in IoT on the device which leads to patchwork approach to security. Some devices may have easy to crack default passwords, many do, while others may send unencrypted data to other devices.

IoT devices often don't have enough physical resources to deal with powerful security features and manufacturers don't care because there's nobody that can sanction them. There are no official guidelines to follow, users aren't educated, and there's too much diversity to fix IoT security overnight. Not many manufacturers will tell you- but it’s a real problem.

If you want to know whether your smart connected devices are secure check the free BullGuard IoT Scanner here.