Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)

A quick google brings up the following definition from Wiki:

The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items— embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. — Wikipedia


Practically this means having “smart” devices which capture information about their environment and act on it, either sharing it over the internet with you or a central server for later retrieval.

By 2020, it is estimated that there will be more than 25 Billion devices which will be worth over $4 Trillion.

I like the Internet of things, I think there are some really interesting possibiities which will make our life so much easier and interesting. However, at the present moment, I do have some concerns with the products that are available.

Safe & Secure

Even though network connected devices have been around for a long time, Iot is still a very young sector as such manufacturers as more interested in establishing themselves with innovative and easy to use products rather than worrying about the very important, but harder to solve problems such as making their products secure.

As you can imagine, with anything directly connected to the internet security is a major concern and it would be expected that it would be at the top of the list of features for any IoT device. At this years DEF CON hacking conference, a researcher, Anthony Rose, tested 16 Bluetooth “Smart” door locks. He found that 12 were easily hackable, some from as far as 1/4 mile away!

When Rose contacted the 12 manufacturers about these issues the response was almost universally negative. One Chinese manufacturer shut down its website, but still sells on Amazon. Ten other companies simply ignored his messages. One firm did come back to him, acknowledging the issue, but said it wasn’t going to fix it. This seems to be a typical response from manaufaturers.  BTW, if you do want to  buy a smart door lock, the ones that passes Rose’s tests were from Noke Locks and Masterlock.

Another example, PetNet, a £100+ smart pet feeder, which can be controlled from a smart phone,  stopped working after a reported server problem leaving pets without access to food for 10 hours. Customers were advised via Twitter, to “manually” feed pets whilst the problem was being fixed. The reason to use a pet feeder is because you are not there, so I’m not sure how this advice could be followed.

Not ready for Prime time

Even with the problems such as the ones identified above, I believe that IoT has great potential, but right now, I will only using it for simple novelty applications, such as mood lighting; it is just not ready for prime time yet.

However, the big boys in the industry are now taking more of an interest. In Sept 2015, the Internet of Things Security Foundation was formed which has a mission statement of:

Our mission is to help secure the Internet of Things, in order to aid its adoption and maximise its benefits. To do this we will promote knowledge and clear best practice in appropriate security to those who specify, make and use IoT products and systems.

This will hopefully start to put security at the heart of new IoT systems, but I think it will be a long road, if previous experience is anything to go by.

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