The Internet of Risky Things

Kachina Shaw

CES has brought the spotlight onto the Internet of Things, and all the shiny new Internet-enabled devices may have IT excited, jealous, calling the boss to say “we’ve got to do a version of this,” and/or pulling out the credit card.

Among other activity, the Internet of Things Consortium is meeting at CES and CIOs are already watching what the small number of consumer-oriented vendors is working on, as future products will play a direct role in their businesses, from supply chain to customer service (if that is not already the case). As ITBE’s Carl Weinschenk wrote this week, “The fading of the demarcation between consumer and enterprise electronics is long established. The point – and one that I have been making for years – is that the two categories increasingly are the same and insisting on separating them is increasingly silly.”

But what are the risks within this tech development area? That is, what are early adopters already dealing with (or ignoring), and what will need to be resolved before safe mass adoption will be reasonable?

Wired’s Andrew Rose describes an evolution of smart devices that will likely make you uncomfortable – as an evolution of sensing devices surely should. Dumb objects are enabled to transmit to and/or receive data from selected systems, then sensors allow partially autonomous devices to self-adjust or perform an action based on data received. Finally, autonomous devices that need no intermediary service at all are able to interact with other systems and perform actions independently. Rose takes it easy on us and uses a fairly innocuous refrigerator to illustrate capabilities, but it doesn’t take much day dreaming to think of 10 disasters that could ruin your day, or your company.

We’re in a honeymoon period, of sorts, when “why didn’t I think of that” moments are frequent, new markets will be created and existing markets will be refreshed. At a recent Minds and Machines 2012 conference, GE announced that its studies show that the Internet of Things will add trillions of dollars of value to GDPs internationally, and productivity gains of 1 to 1.5 percent in the U.S. The company is also taking the lead in a number of partnerships that will shape progress in interoperability and governance.

Reliable governance, and certainly regulation, always follows technology’s lead. Sadly, it often follows too far behind to avoid disastrous gaps between capability and control. The enormity of activity that could be included within the Internet of Things is no exception.

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