The Internet of Things (IoT) is a whole bunch of objects, interconnected by the internet, that are able to exchange data through application programming interfaces (APIs). An estimated 25 billion IoT objects will be connected and exchanging data by the year 2020, according to my colleague Amanda Myers’ related blog post last week. That’s a lot of objects moving around a lot of data.
A familiar example involving IoT would be later model cars. A popular automotive service now provides the motorist with a monthly summary of the operating health of the car. Sensors mounted on the car provide data about oil life, tire pressure, transmission operation, and service requirements directly to the owner’s favorite computing device.
Another example is fitness. Devices strapped to your body during a workout track number of steps taken, miles run, exertion expended, and calories burned. This information can then be logged, tracked, and shared through a variety of fitness-themed websites and the user’s favorite social media outlets.
Extrapolate the possibilities of IoT to the health and medical fields and imagine receiving up-to-the-minute information about your heart health, blood pressure, and blood sugar and cholesterol levels. An insulin pump could be programmed to monitor a patient’s blood sugar level and be constantly adjusted remotely by the patient’s caregiver.
The possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the engineers of monitoring devices and the software developers of the APIs needed to run those devices. Make the user’s experience a responsive design so that IoT object results can be viewed by desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and there is a potential for a totally connected audience spanning all time zones.
Shifting gears to the business world, imagine being able to attract a potential consumer’s interest, whether it be in the for-profit or nonprofit business space, using an engaging smartphone app. A wealth of demographic data can be captured during the app data exchange that can be re-used later to follow-up with the consumer to foster an ongoing business relationship.
Of course, once acquired, safeguarding that data becomes of paramount importance. The ramifications of a data breach can cause problems in areas such as:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Specifically, failing to protect the confidentiality and security of healthcare information
- Lost Income: Having to pay to redress the harm caused by loss of sensitive data
- Lost credibility: Once lost, credibility can be almost impossible to regain which can lead to ongoing loss of income
Stories about hackers remotely controlling IoT objects are already making their rounds around the internet. The very same systems on a car that make modern life more convenient and safe can be used to misguide and endanger drivers. Hospitals are already being targeted to pay ransom to regain access to their computer networks. The same targeting could be applied to an IoT medical device.
So, with great technology comes great responsibility. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It just might be worthwhile to think through all the security aspects of using an IoT device before committing one’s data to be exchanged through that device.