As long as we’re discussing technology, there’s a good article to read from our wonderful host, windroidica.in, about Android vs. iOS. Special thanks to them for both posting this article and for being a great source of useful information.
Decades ago we were promised flying cars, automatic homes and convenience in everything we do. Advertisements and science fiction writers spoke about “the world of tomorrow,” an almost magical place created by technology. It was one of the major selling points for technological progress.
Our today is yesterday’s tomorrow. While it certainly is true that we didn’t get flying cars (or hoverboards), we have seen quite a few promises delivered upon. The mobile phone has made communication easy and has replaced many household devices. Cars are now able to self-diagnose many problems with a simple scan of their computer. They’ll soon be able to drive themselves!
Yet what really intends to deliver on that fantastical promise of the world of tomorrow is the Internet of Things.
Your Toaster is Online
At the very least, your toaster might be online soon. The latest trend in technology is to add internet support for ordinary devices that were previously disconnected. Everything from cars that connect to the internet for diagnostic purposes to home security systems that can be controlled from anywhere exist and are used by millions.
Every device that gains access to the net becomes part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and is assigned its own unique ID. Ultimately, that means your home computer is connected to the same network that a smart refrigerator (these already exist) connects to. This can enhance the use of both items.
We have already discussed the first example: smart cars that can go online can also relay information about problems with your car to a manufacturer or dealership. This allows the car to notify you when something needs to be fixed or replaced, but it also helps the fixer see the problem without having to ask you “what kind of sound is it making?”
Normal items having internet connectivity also means you can control it from afar. Some houses are connected to the internet in a way that allows you to turn lights and other electrical appliances on and off from your smartphone. Ever wonder if you left the oven on? You might not have to.
The “world of tomorrow” promised a more convenient future, but what we’re really seeing is a tomorrow with entertainment access everywhere. Smart TVs were one of the first major appliances to get internet access. The purpose, in large part, was to replace the need for a secondary device to access entertainment.
Netflix and Hulu were big participants in this change, as were services such as Roku and Amazon. Previously users needed to own a separate device to access these services, but now they can all be downloaded as apps to your TV. Some even come equipped with a microphone and camera for use on services such as Skype.
Game systems have also switched from simply being something you put a disc or cartridge into to being “always on” devices that are connected to the net 24/7. Much like your smartphone, they seek updates and serve as advertising tools for content creators.
This may be where the Internet of Things takes a more dystopian bent.
The World of Tomorrow or 1984?
The wonderful advances of technology have made our toys more convenient and accessible than ever before. Yet they have also made us more accessible than ever before. Whether you know it or not, these smart devices connected to the IoT aren’t just collecting diagnostic information. They’re also collecting behavioral data.
In the same way websites record who clicks on what, your smart TV can also record and relay what you’re watching and when. Those with microphones and cameras are also potentially able to provide other types of information such as how many people are watching the TV. This kind of data is used primarily for marketing purposes, but it doesn’t make it less creepy.
The same could be said for other devices in the IoT. Connected cars relaying information are going to know certain details such as how many stops you make, where you make them and how fast you drive. Much of this information is diagnostic, but it’s not information you might feel comfortable sharing with strangers or corporations.
Aside of privacy concerns, the Internet of Things also presents a future that the more paranoid of us are concerned with.
It’s no secret that much larger and more mobile devices are also joining the IoT. Drones are very much connected to the network, as are new experimental automatic cars. As more devices connect to the internet, more opportunities for sabotage and foul play also arise.
As smart cars have already been demonstrated to be hackable, one wonders if automatic cars are next. The issue also applies to home security systems, lights and other devices as they gain access to the net. Imagine what could be done with a hackable oven.
Surprisingly enough, the rise of the machines (artificial intelligence) doesn’t appear to be as big a concern just yet. While the machines probably won’t be taking over, you can bet criminals are doing what they can to exploit any vulnerabilities that might arise.
That leads us to our last point.
Your Role in the “World of Tomorrow”
Since we already know cybercrime is something that isn’t likely to go away, it does well to know what we can do to help make tomorrow secure. Aside of just not buying anything “smart,” there are some things that can be done to help people protect themselves.
As consumers we need to first decide “why” we’re adding something to the IoT and if the benefits outweigh the costs. We can also demand that manufacturers exclude certain features if they want our money (no spying on us through the TV). That goes double for items that really don’t need to go online (smart toilets are not necessary).
For devices we can directly interface with such as smartphones, we can install software that helps protect these devices from harm. Right now the best tools are online security suites and a Virtual Private Network (such as ExpressVPN). Together they prevent the infection of your computer with malware and the theft of data through public networks respectively.
Updating software is also paramount. Smart cars, for instance, sometimes need to be taken to a dealership to have the latest updates installed. If you’ve got a connected device that hasn’t been updated in a while, contact the manufacturer to be sure there aren’t any available. Updates can prevent hackers from exploiting security loopholes.
Surely enough, this technology is here to stay. Much of it is beneficial, but only if we’re responsible with it. What are you doing to make sure the Internet of Things delivers on the promise of a better tomorrow? Share with us in the comments!