The Internet of Everything – are we ready for it?
31 July 2014
Keith Nichols considers our rush to connect everything to everything else, but questions: have we thought through all the implications?
Paying heed to all the publicity about potential business gains from connecting everything to everything else within an IT architecture has got to be tempting. There are promises of significantly shorter search and data transfer times if we eliminate those all-too-familiar IT disconnects. We could have rapid access to, and greater reusability of, information whilst avoiding the well-known pitfall of transcription errors.
There is a long list of opportunities to do things better and faster, leading to smart buildings, more intelligent parking management and better utilities management, to name but a few. CISCO estimate the total value-at-stake of the internet-of-everything (IoE) to be a massive $19 trillion over the next decade, of which $14.4 trillion is in the private sector.
We all want these savings. Many portray interconnectivity as the next IT revolution - and it could be. But amongst all this marketing enthusiasm, we must question whether the full implications of the internet of everything have really been thought through? Clearly if they have, it is a massive and beneficial step forward.
A recent press report about the hacking of a passenger vehicle in China raises the question of whether we are ready to connect everything just yet. It highlights a security issue we would be wise not to underestimate. Hackers were able to gain control of a vehicle's locks, headlights, wipers, sunroof and horn. Fortunately, this was only a tame hacking which was eventually detected and plugged by a national IT security firm. But imagine if the hacking were malicious with sunroofs being opened remotely during heavy downpours or brakes disabled when travelling at high speeds?
Having a fully connected vehicle does present serious risks. In the example above, the manufacturer appears to have overlooked the fact that by connecting everything, the systems that provided the blue-tooth connection, or the electronics that delivered up to date in-car navigation, could also provide a way in for hackers so that they could ultimately control the physical aspects of the car - the locks, speedometers, accelerators, brakes and even the steering wheel. The more we move towards drive-by-wire, the more we are increasing the ability to connect everything electrical, and this creates opportunity for hackers to put ourselves, our passengers and the immediate public at risk.
If you are handling the marketing strategy for IoE related technologies, it is worth remembering a bit of history. Ten or more years ago, the potential market for genetically-modified foods changed quite rapidly, especially in Europe. Sources of the technology appeared to be just denying rather than handling perceived risks.
For a time, in Europe, this created a political environment in which support for GM foods was not a vote-winner. The result is a challenging European regulatory environment for GM foods, and slow development of the market. This provides a learning point for IoE marketing, and especially connected cars.
Technologists, and their strategists and marketers, must take market concerns, both real and imagined, very seriously. No-one wants their machines wrecked by a Stuxnet virus from the other side of the world. No-one wants their car controls to be accessible to hackers. It is not too early to be pounding out the message of security as a top priority. And also, by the way, solving the problems.
Keith Nichols is a Principal at Cambashi Ltd, a Cambridge based independent industry analyst firm.
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