Just in case you have been out of the loop regarding technology and technological progress, internet of things is a terminology describing a world in which more and more devices around us — toasters, refrigerators, house doors, watches, etc. — are connected with each other and eventually with the internet itself (either directly, or through another device).
To give you an example, you probably have a phone with you that is constantly connected to the internet. Then, there is a multitude of smart watches being pushed into the consumer market. These watches connect to your phone, and your phone to the internet. That is a small example of internet of things. Things talking to each other, and talking over the internet with other things.
Alright, now you understand the basic concept.
Internet of things is getting there. Everything in your house will sooner or later be connected and talking to each other. Bosch and Siemens already have a plan for installing such connectivity into basically all home appliances.
Lifx — makers of the coolest Wi-Fi controlled lightbulb — partnered with Nest — makers of the coolest thermostat and smoke protector. Essentially, devices that one company makes are now talking with devices another company makes. And those devices are talking to your Wi-Fi router, and through it to the internet.
In itself all of this is a good idea. Controlling your home AC unit to cool down your home while you are driving home. Checking the timer and temperature of the oven on your phone while you watch TV. There are some good things that can happen when our devices are connected.
Humans suck at programming
Humans are horrible at programming. Just absolutely horrendous. Oh, yes, you are a good programmer, are you? Your code never fails? It has no bugs ever? Right.
You see, the problem is that humans are simply not good at talking machine language. Our brains have hard time coping with the level of abstraction required to do really complex programming. Of course, there are some savants out there which see the code like Neo sees the Matrix, and I appreciate that because without them the internet would probably not work, but these are rare. Reality of the situation is that most of the world’s code is written by regular Joe Programmer who does an average job. He clocks in at 9, clocks out at 5, does not care. The software he is coding sort of works, until it crashes, then it is patched, rinse and repeat.
The biggest red flag that says humans simply suck at programming is the fact that every month another big company leaks data or crashes or something horrible happens to the software owned or maintained by that company. Adobe leaked passwords. eBay got hacked. Pinterest got hacked. Snapchat got hacked. Kickstarter got hacked. Software systems are failing all the time. Exploits are found in browsers, in operating systems.
You could say now:
Well, one would kinda hope that Bosch and Siemens would test their products, and not release buggy toaster!
Yes. But, somewhere in China or Taiwan or somewhere, there are companies that do quick knock-off copies, or simply lower quality stuff. They do not care much about quality control and debugging. And your mom will see one of those cheap Chinese toasters in local store and buy it. Hell, we can even consider the fact that a lot of people today are buying smartphones and using them as dumb phones. Why? Simply because it is nearly impossible to buy dumb phone these days as telecoms are heavily subsidising smart phones. In the near future it will be impossible to buy dumb toaster. All options for toasters will be connected toasters. No more dumb toasters!
Security is non existent
And this then ties back in to the internet of things. It is absolutely impossible that all of those interconnected things are totally secure.
Someone will find a hole in your connected toaster. Through that hole, they will gain access to your Wi-Fi (because the toaster will be connected to it), and through that … well, you get the idea.
Someone will design a smart front door lock. A lock that unlocks automatically when owner approaches it because they will have a phone in a pocket. Neat idea, phone as a key. What will happen next is the person who has access to your toaster will gain access to your door.
There are discussions on the internet what to do when hackers find exploits in devices that could directly kill people. It is a totally plausible scenario that a pacemaker installed in a person can be accessed through hacked system of faulty internet of things.
Here is what will happen
Our houses and cars and pockets will be filled with more and more connected things. All of this will be done in good intentions. Good intentions from the manufacturer and good intentions from you. People will buy those products either willingly or completely unknowing what these things do.
These products will, and already do, contain bugs and holes.
Someone will find those bugs and holes.
A malicious person might gain access to a car’s braking system. Might gain access to gas oven. Might gain control to a house boiler and heating system.
And someone will die.
At that point we will evaluate is it really a good idea to have controls for a toaster on your smartphone, is it necessary to remotely turn on the AC, is it really that hard to unlock your door with a key…