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Information Unleashed

Seeing through the Internet of Things

Created: 04 Feb 2014 • Updated: 19 Feb 2014
khaley's picture
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Pulse

Weight

Time slept

Steps taken

Glucose levels

Blood pressure

Exposure to sunlight

Time spent brushing your teeth

Pretty soon, the information above is going to be floating around the Internet. By that, I mean your information. Your pulse rate, your weight, etc. As the Internet of Things combines with the tremendous advances in hardware to allow us to gather and track information about ourselves, this data will get out there. We’ll gladly buy devices that track this information; some of us already have. People want to improve their lives by having this data collected and analyzed. And in order to facilitate that collection, to make it easy to gather and display, we’ll be entrusting that data to software applications, device manufacturers and the Internet. 

It’s obvious that companies will want to use this data. I can imagine an ad popping up in my browser for a sleeping aid after I’ve had a bad night’s sleep. The next time I forget my sunscreen when visiting the beach, dermatologists will be contacting me and fighting for my business. And I’ll get a break on my dental insurance because I brush 1.2 minutes longer than the national average.

Some people will find this creepy. Some will claim to like it. And some will not really understand the consequences and say they don’t care.

Here’s the thing: If we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that when companies collect our data they can lose it, have it stolen or sell it to someone else.  Is there any reason to think that all this new data being gathered will be any different?

I’m not going to avoid this new technology. I think it’s great. I’m already tracking the steps I take each day and monitoring my weight. But to help prevent me from getting that creepy feeling, vendors will need to be transparent in what they collect, where they store it and how they use it. We consumers deserve to be educated enough so we can make our own decisions on what we are comfortable sharing with the companies we do business with...and the companies they do business with. Some people are just not going to care that such personal information was collected, but that shouldn’t be because they are ignorant of what is being collected. 

Vendors also need to step up in other areas. They need to keep their applications secure and make sure they are protecting the data they collect. As we’ve seen, even companies with world-class security practices can experience a vulnerability or breach. But it’s questionable if many Internet of Things vendors have even thought through these problems. Being a start-up is not an excuse, and ignorance is certainly not one either. One nice thing about transparency will be to force vendors to start thinking about what they’re doing.

In my predictions for 2014 I renamed the Internet of Things the “Internet of Vulnerabilities.”  In my next posting, I’ll share some thoughts on what should be done about this.

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