We have been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) for some time both in technical circles and more recently in local political discourse. Gartner says that IoT is moving beyond the hype and that it is no longer on the way; it’s here! But is it?
The Maltese government has launched the Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things Taskforce and claims to give IoT priority over the next years as part of its digital innovation strategy.
But what is IoT really?
IoT is made up of two main parts: connectivity and devices. Firstly, IoT requires a stable and fast internet connection in order to provide value. This can be achieved by a solid Wi-Fi signal in the built-up environment and by good mobile network coverage, especially with the advent of 5G, in open areas. Secondly are the electronic devices, typically small, cheap and requiring as little power as possible so that they can be used for long stretches. The combination of the hardware, network connectivity and software (both on-device or in the cloud) give rise to endless possibilities and this is the IoT promise.
IoT devices come in a wide variety, from bracelets that record our physical activities, to all sorts of smart home appliances. They are used to monitor traffic, crowds, weather conditions and air quality but also in medical and manufacturing setups. Small devices can track any item, pets and even children or vulnerable people. IoT devices can be used to automate illumination, irrigation and even who gets inside a building. Given that most do not have a screen, voice commands are very common and the popularity devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home demonstrate that voice interfaces are here to stay.
IoT as a source of valuable data
The uptake of IoT, estimated to be in the billions of connected devices, is predicted to double in the next 4 years. IoT and data are strongly linked together, and the data produced and consumed by IoT devices will grow at similar rates. Just deploying an army of IoT devices will only generate large amounts of data which are of little value to businesses if this data is not properly analysed. Analysis will extract meaningful statistics, patterns and trends that produce quality insights and allow business leaders to take data-driven decisions.
IoT and security
The strong push to release a product on the market as early as possible and fierce competition often leads IoT device manufacturers to favour features and a low price point over security. You most likely heard horror stories about hacked baby monitors, surveillance cameras of people being locked in or out of the building due to a hacked IoT device. Even when exploitable vulnerabilities are responsibly disclosed by ethical hackers, there is no regulation regarding device updates, resulting in most cheaper devices never being updated even when security vulnerabilities are public.
How can it impact my business?
With intelligent deployment of IoT devices, your business can benefit from a valuable source of data that is timely and accurate. When properly stored and analysed, insights from this data will allow you to run your business more effectively and reduce expenses.
Even when functioning safely, IoT devices generate an ever-growing amount of data, often personal data where the user is easily identifiable. As with all sensitive data, those managing IoT devices need to ensure that the data is held securely and used within the boundaries of laws like EU’s GDPR.