Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is the final part in a mini blog series from Fergus O’Sullivan with Cloudwards.net. In it, Fergus shows us how the use of IoT technology provides the analytics and machine learning capabilities that allow us to avoid potential risks.
IoT Technology, Analytics and Machine Learning
As you can imagine, being wired up all the time an IoT device is at risk of experiencing a serious informational overload. Being as dumb as it is, it leaves the thinking up to a cloud of some kind, be it a network of uncountable tiny devices, a big, badass supercomputer or a combination of these.
No matter where all this data is processed, there’s so much of it that the brain of the outfit needs to sort through it all and decide what’s relevant and what isn’t. Your coffee maker can use the information from your alarm clock to know what time you’re getting up in the morning, but knowing that your car is low on gas is of no use to it.
Through a process of analysis, which you’ll often see referred to as “analytics,” an IoT brain can decide what it needs to know and what it doesn’t. This process is often guided by human programmers, but more and more it is also inspired by devices themselves through what is now often called machine learning, but you may also recognize as deep learning.
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that can, you guessed it, learn from its environment and the data fed to it and attach consequences to its choices in a very limited manner. Without machine learning, you’d have to program each and every IoT device by hand for every possible scenario; that’s doable for coffee makers, but impossible for, say, a car.
If you think of the IoT, try and think of it as standing on a tripod: if one leg goes missing, the whole thing falls over. If machine learning is one leg, then the cloud and chip miniaturization technology are the other two.
As you may possibly already know, there are people — some of them very, very smart — that are worried about the strides we’re making in AI. It should be noted that machine learning is a type of AI and that the intelligence those folks are worried about is of a very different order of magnitude. Though you should never say never, the chances that your coffeepot is going to try and kill you are minimal.
Risks of the Internet of Things
The threat of Skynet aside, there is a real risk inherent to the Internet of Things. However, it’s not as sexy as your self-driving car trying to kill you and is therefore a little underreported. It centers around the same question that always pops up when large, in this case huge, amounts of data are at stake: namely, what happens to all that information?
By letting IoT technology in your home, you’re basically installing a bug, one that can gather data from other digital devices, maybe even hear and see you. This isn’t that bad in and of itself, it needs to fulfill its purpose after all, but what happens with the data it gathers?
This question reared its ugly head during the United States Senate debate about ISPs being allowed to spy on their customers and the fact is, all this data is out there: the more IoT technology you have in your home, the bigger the chances are that certain data regarding your life is recorded somewhere. If someone has seen it is a second concern, but it does exist.
In fact, certain IoT gurus have touted this data gathering as a major plus to the Internet of Things for marketers and the like, as by knowing your habits, it will be easier to target ads at you. If you’re even remotely concerned about your privacy, this will likely be a terrifying thought.
After all, when you boil it all down, we all have something to hide somewhere and it’s going to be all the easier to find by having all that data floating around. On the flipside of that, how will it affect your behavior if you know you’re being spied on all the time, and by the devices you paid for with your own money? Will you still be able to lead the life you’ve always wanted?
The Internet of Things is a truly amazing development that is likely going to change our lives for the better: it’s already bringing about massive positive changes in industry, healthcare, logistics and our own homes. However, as with all such developments, there is a darker side that we need to deal with as well.
Thing is, when it comes to digital security, the white hats are always going to be a step behind the black hats: the only proof you need is the recent WannaCry ransomware attack that put several corporations as well as governments out of business for a few hours.
Imagine that had happened to every single device you own: your coffee maker would not pour a pot unless you paid some cyber criminal a couple of bucks and your car wouldn’t start until you purged its memory of a few viruses.
Though the Internet of Things is a wonderful development that will bring a lot of improvement to both our lives as well as the way business is conducted, the risks associated with it should not be ignored or downplayed.
Whether it’s unemployment due to automation or even more of your personal data being hawked on the open market or simply criminals being able to mess with more facets of your life, IoT technology is not something consumers should embrace blindly without knowing about all the risks.