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Hitting Closer to Home: Innovation and the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the creation of networks of devices, vehicles, buildings, and other “things” via the Internet and using sensors and other electronic components to gather and exchange data between each other. Used in recent years to interconnect control systems for manufacturing equipment and control automated supply chains in the industrial sector, the IoT is quickly becoming more popular in the household market, with technologies such as smart refrigerators, thermostats, switches and power outlets, and wearable technology all becoming integrated into daily life. This increase in domestic consumption can be attributed to the dwindling size of integrated electronics and the increasing prevalence of Internet connectivity.

These new technologies usher in automation of tasks to increase efficiency and avoid the need for human interaction. In doing so, they free up the average person’s time to do more complex or meaningful tasks — automating menial tasks such as creating shopping lists (your refrigerator can track the amount of foods), watering your plants, and making sure the oven is off. However, they also can make your home and life more efficient — your Nest thermostat can adjust the temperature to save money and your electricity usage can be moderated by turning off unneeded lights without human intervention using Postscapes.

However, with increased Internet connectivity comes loss of privacy and security. With your house being connected to the Internet, attackers could access sensitive data stored in your home through the IoT or cause services to stop working all together. Imagine having an automated security system controlling the locks and doors in your house — an attacker could cause your locks to unlock while you’re not home. Also with increased connectivity comes an increase of complexity in your home — all your devices have to be compatible with each other to work in a orderly manner while bugs in or failures of individual devices could cause whole network outage.

In all, the IoT brings both positives and negatives to the home — however, when properly mitigated, the negatives will give way to the efficiency that the IoT is known for.

— Colin Burr

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