The Internet of Things at CES 2015

Next story


CES ran from Tuesday to Friday last week and displayed the usual range of zany, interesting and downright useless gadgets. The prevailing theme was the Internet of Things, with more and more seemingly mundane items becoming connected.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the vast number of connected items we use nowadays: we’re talking fridges connected to the internet, smart televisions and the myriad of fitness and health tracking wearables that feed info to your phone.

In many ways it’s incredibly useful and convenient to be able to control your heating, lights and TV from your phone but do we fully comprehend the downsides and potential risks?

“Data trove…”

FTC Chairwomen Edith Ramirez focused her keynote speech at CES on the IoT, specifically how IoT device manufacturers need to consider “security by design”.

She spoke extensively about the “deeply personal and startlingly complete picture” painted by all of the data collected and transmitted about our health, spending habits, religious preferences, TV viewing habits, even sleeping habits.

Quite rightly Ramirez also focused on the issue of trust: consumers trusting manufacturers and data providers/ storage with their information. The IoT, as an industry, will be made or broken on its ability to foster trust with its consumers: early adopters in particular.

Many of the key points she outlined under “security by design” could, and should, apply to all aspects of tech production: Testing security measures during the design process and an emphasis on encryption, to name a couple.

One of my first blog posts, about smart cities, looked at many of the same issues that Ramirez mentioned: who will control the data? What will it be used for? What if it is misused or stolen?

“Paint a picture…”

As Ramirez put it “this pervasive collection of data inevitably gives rise to concerns about how all of this personal information will be used.” An example she raised specifically was whether “your TV-viewing habits [could] be shared with prospective employers or universities?” Potentially used against you in a sense – depending on what you’re watching I suppose.

The point being “will this information be used to paint a picture of you that you will not see but that others will – people who might make decisions about whether you are shown ads for organic food or junk food, where your call to customer service is routed, and what offers of credit and other products you receive?”

I don’t think it would be beyond the realm of possibility to see your life insurance premiums rising once your health tracking device reports your intake of burgers and sofa time increasing. This is a very cynical view but not entirely outlandish.

Hopefully it won’t be a case of us, as consumers, finding out the answers to these important questions after there is problem: unfortunately it’s certainly something that I can foresee happening.

For now I’m going to don my tin foil hat and maintain close control over my data – as close as I can nowadays. But I certainly hope that the IoT can prove my pessimism wrong and really take notice of Edith Ramirez’s suggestions.

Ramirez’s full speech can be found here, I highly recommend giving it a read if you’re interesting in the IoT.

If you want to stay up to date with our blog then join our LinkedIn Group.

How many IoT devices do you own? Do you worry about your data?