As IoT heralds a big change in the world around us, greater attention needs to be given to making our environment more manageable and secure
It wasn’t that long ago that having a reliable network around the office was a luxury and having seamless connectivity between offices was a pipe dream. Today, with improvements in performance and reliability, these things are now the norm. What’s more, users expect performance and reliability regardless of where they are or how they’re connected. The increasing prevalence of wireless and mobile technology has given rise to a range of new technology applications. Our world has become more interconnected than ever before.
As tech innovators spent effort in improving the interconnectivity and accessibility of various systems, the concept of an Internet of Things or IoT was born. While the concept of Internet of Things is not new, it is one key area that is expected to see a significant amount of growth andchange over the next couple of years. When a market leader like Google focuses attention on building IoT capabilities and spends a whopping $3.2 billion on the acquiring Nest, a connected devices company, it does point towards things to come.
Increasing levels of inter-connectivity between various devices, however, will also make them vulnerable to more risks. Therefore, as we welcome the IoT revolution we must be prepared for the security threats that are likely to come along.
There has been an increasing deployment of ‘smart meters’ by electrical utilities in our homes. For consumers, smart meters provide real time or near real time information about power usage. So consumers are aware of their power usage and can modify their behavior accordingly. And for utilities, smart meters provide a means of better controlling the power network. In times of peak demand it is possible for them to turn off specific appliances within the household.
Commercial buildings consume large amounts of energy for heating, cooling, lighting and power in general. In recent years there have been moves to better utilize natural light and convection within buildings to improve efficiency. At the same time, the deployment of various sensors and integration of different systems is yielding further efficiency by ensuring that areas that are vacant are not lit and that environmental conditioning in those areas are adjusted accordingly.
Within hospitality, there is also an increasing move to improve the efficiency of hotels and other forms of accommodation. After checking in, it is not uncommon for guests to head to their room, turn on the heating or air conditioning and maybe the TV get changed and then head out to explore their surrounds. Integrating various different systems such as access control and environmental management delivers greater environmental efficiency by turning off energy consuming devices in the room when there is no motion. When guests returns and swipe their pass at the front door or in the lift, the system will turn those devices on again so that when the guest arrives back in their room those appliances that were on when they left are still on and their room should be similar in terms of temperature to when they left.
The above examples only reflect on some of the applications of Internet of Things and one certainty is that we will see far greater deployment of this technology over the coming years.
Smart Cities will Need Smarter Security
In days gone by, systems such as security systems around a facility or the environmental management system in an office building were stand-alone systems that existed in isolation and interfaced with little else other than through a keypad or console. Over time, however, the benefits of interfacing different systems and making them more accessible have been better understood and a lot of effort has been spent on creating standards for interfacing various different systems.
While increasing levels of integration between systems will deliver tremendous benefits, there are also significant concerns regarding security, the connected nature of these devices and also the systems they control. One only has to remember the scenes from Die Hard 4.0 where the bad guy takes control of road and air networks to wreak havoc on the city. And while this may sound far-fetched, remember the havoc that Stuxnet caused for the Iranian government and their nuclear program.
As enterprises have lifted the security throughout their environments, hackers will increasingly turn to embedded devices and sensors that often have limited security functionality. They may also be deployed in places where there is little on-going, active management of the environment making them ideal targets. So, while Internet of Things offers significant benefits and the ability to build Smarter Cities and a Smarter Planet, greater attention needs to be given to how these environments are managed and secured.