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Smart Devices – The Name Obscures The Reality

Soon, the typical home will contain hundreds of connected smart devices. What will that mean for our privacy, security and identity?

A few years ago, Gartner predicted that the typical family home could have 500 smart devices by 2022. That’s just five years away. “We expect that a very wide range of domestic equipment will become ‘smart’ in the sense of gaining some level of sensing and intelligence combined with the ability to communicate, usually wirelessly,” said Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “More sophisticated devices will include both sensing and remote control functions. Price will seldom be an inhibitor because the cost of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabling a consumer ‘thing’ will approach $1 in the long term.” I think they might be right on all counts.

Early on, technology innovators considered smart devices as form factors for ubiquitous computing. This included things like smart phones, tablets, wearable computers and display panels. But today, the term has come to encompass all forms of “things” which contain computers and connectivity. These are not just information appliances. They are basically all appliances, from toasters to cars. The meaning of smart devices has merged into the Internet of Things.

Two Things to Consider About Smart Devices

Consider two things about the brave new world of Smart Devices. The first is connectivity. By definition, devices are connected to networks. This is good because it enables you to remote control your appliances using your personal connectivity. This is bad because, well, so can other people. Most people do a poor job of securing their networks and computing devices. They are unlikely to do a better job securing their cameras and baby monitors.

Second is that the Internet of Things essentially embeds you into a vendor’s business model. Every company today has some sort of “digital business framework”.  Such a framework links customers into all stages of business processes, it identifies business opportunities and can proactively intervene. As technology and business models mature, those 500 smart devices in the typical home will become integral nodes in complex business networks. What will this do to your privacy and consumer choice?

Who is driving the bus in the smart home? Fifty years ago, we invented the Internet. We gave little thought to privacy, security and identity management at the time. Consequently, we have been paying the price for this oversight ever since. Are we about to repeat our mistakes with the Internet of Things?

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