Why is the world moving to the Internet of Things?
The world is moving towards the Internet of Things for one big reason: convenience. There is lots of talk about fridges and toasters being connected but that’s not the real value. Some examples of real value to consumers would be having their alarm systems connected so that they can arm or disarm from a phone; Or seeing which zone has been triggered when the alarm at home goes off. Or having connected IP cameras so they can see if there’s an intruder or simply check on their pets. Some examples for businesses would be connected fridges for caterers or restaurants so they get notified in realtime if temperatures increase too much, Or connected temperature gauges in server rooms so IT support staff can turn up the (also connected) aircon remotely and avoid hardware damage. On the industrial side, the applications are endless. In a pre-Internet of Things world, you would need to hire staff to watch your machines and monitor things like production outputs, resource inputs, temperatures, and more. With IoT devices, and maybe a little AI, all of this can be done automatically and monitored in real-time by someone at home on a tablet. Another big factor driving IoT adoption is cost. As technology keeps advancing, the hardware that helps deliver IoT solutions is becoming smaller, faster and cheaper. Take mini-PC’ for example. You can now get a desktop computer that is about the size of an external hard drive, uses as much power as an energy-saving lightbulb and has no moving parts yet is just as powerful.
Does it make sense to live in a connected world?
I think there is still lots of opportunity for lots of things to become more connected for the better. However, I also foresee lots of people (or businesses) drawing a line in the sand at some stage in the future. You could have super connected businesses for instance but be unconnected at home. Or connected at school but not at home. I don’t think it makes sense for all of our devices to be connected all of the time.
What are the disadvantages?
- Less human interaction. We can all see the effects of smart (connected) phones when we walk down a street and see a huge proportion of people with their heads down ignoring real life. On our current track, this will continue and become worse with VR headsets and AR contact lens’.
- Loss of jobs
What are the security risks?
There have been numerous cases of hackers taking over connected devices and the implications are terrifying. Imagine a hacker taking over your cameras to view you logging into your Internet banking, or see when you’re not home, or stalk you. Imagine hackers gaining access to your new self-driving car. Or your account at home affairs. Like it or not we live in a connected world already and the more reliant on it we become the more vulnerable we are to digital crooks.
How can these be mitigated against?
There will have to be anti-virus-like programs for IoT devices as well as hardware protection like firewalls. We’ll also need to step up our authentication methods as an 8 digit password just won’t do.
How can companies benefit from the Internet of Things? What additional services can they market/offer as a result?
There will be growth in companies offering IoT solutions to existing businesses but I think the big benefit wouldn’t be about new services or products, it would be about improving efficiencies and decreasing costs for existing ones.
How far is SA when it comes to the Internet of Things, and what does the ecosystem look like?
We find SA businesses are interested in IoT for all of the reasons above but its often not labelled IoT. When someone tells you they can reduce your businesses energy consumption 20% by installing small connected devices to your air conditioners, you might not consider it IoT, but you will take it seriously. The FttH revolution is also increasing IoT devices in homes. It’s quite common to have connected TV’s nowadays and more and more people are getting smart (and connected) speaker systems and alarms.
What futuristic IoT uses can we expect, and when?
The exciting (or terrifying) IoT uses involve implants and wearable devices. Not just an Apple Watch but screens built into your clothes, or embedded in your eye. Even more, astounding into your brain. These technologies are years away if they even get approved, but some serious people are putting serious money behind them.