You may have heard the term "Internet of Things" (or IoT) but wondered what it is. In short IoT is the concept of connecting different devices to the web and to each other. This can include anything that has an on/off switch such as washing machines, coffee makers, smartphones, tablets, doors, light switches, coffee makers and many more. These objects or “things” are embedded with software, sensors, electronics, and network connectivity, allowing them to complete tasks and communicate with each other without any human involvement.
One of the ideas behind IoT is to create a Smart Home where objects such as thermostats (in the UK, most energy companies are rolling out Smart Meters), lights, fridges, door locks, toasters, washing machines etc can all be connected to the internet and controlled by your smart phone or computer. IoT also applies to the use of smart devices outside of the home to automate processes, such as roads that alert drivers to spots of black ice or recycling bins that tell the council when to pick them up.
So how does the Internet of Things work? Well, it is made up of three major components: the things themselves; the networks connecting them together and the data flowing between each of the devices. By collecting and analysing this data, the devices can establish patterns of interest, so that users can act upon the data via their mobile apps.
One of the most popular pieces of Internet of Things technology currently available is the Nest, a smart thermostat that is connected to the internet. The Nest learns your household’s routines and will automatically adjust the temperature based on when you’re home or away, awake or asleep, hot or cold, to make your house more efficient and help save on heating and cooling bills. The mobile app allows you to edit schedules, change the temperature when you’re away from home, etc.
There is also the Philips Smart Bulb, which lets you programme and control your lights from your smartphone.
IoT has been described as a world changing revolution that will affect industrial sectors, the home and eventually the entire world. But be warned, the smart home might not be quite so smart when it comes to security.
Cyber criminals must be rubbing their hands together with glee knowing that there are an estimated twenty-five billion devices, including desktops and laptops, online, with separate research stating that 70 percent of IoT devices are unsecured. Connecting even more of these devices creates new, and heightens existing, security risks. In fact, there have been recently reported web attacks that used compromised connected devices, from webcams to printers, to knock out several popular websites.
So what should we be doing to protect ourselves and our homes? We’ll talk about this in our next article.