Internet of Things (IoT) How To Secure Our Connected World: An Open Call To The Industry
The Internet of Things IoT aims to make human lives easier, more productive and efficient. It encourages the smart usage of energy sources and aims to enhance productivity by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). However, in 2019, the advancements even though they have been significant seems somewhat lacking. What is it that is holding it back to take effect?
Internet of Things IoT and our Connected World: Meaning
Can you please book me a cab?
Can you please dim the lights?
What is the Stock Market like today?
If you are one of those people who use technology in every aspect of their lives, you are not alone. In fact, nearly a billion people are part of a connected world!
As human beings are getting smarter, they are innovating on products that are getting smarter themselves. The result? We are now in an age of information technology that even the Jetsons would be proud of. Technological products or gadgets are not simply what they used to be-
- Isolated mechanical entities
- Serving only one purpose
- Not capable of learning from human behavior
- Unrelated cohesion of parts and batteries
Rather, technological products are now sophisticated entities that combine exceptional hardware with intelligent software. We are talking about tech that integrates-
- Cloud Storage
- Wireless Connectivity
These smart tech products are not only ‘smart’ in terms of their output. They and smart and connected to similar products like themselves.
In terms of advantages, these smart, connected products offer greater reliability, range of functionalities, and transcend the boundaries of traditional mechanics. This also helps companies vie for creating the best tech, often leading to affordable prices and values for consumers.
Internet of Things IoT And The Third Wave of Information Technology
Digital historians and experts feel that the smart and connected world is mankind’s third wave of IT’s revolution. The first wave was the birth of the Computer and the basic and preliminary automation that is offered. This wave took place in the decades of 1960 and 1970.
For example, writing, processing bills, maintaining an automated finance record, and so on. In the second wave, the birth of the internet and connectivity made it possible for global integration of demand and supply chains in the world.
This made traditional companies branch out and expand their products and services to different parts of the globe. This wave took place in the 1980s and the 1990s.
The first wave and the third wave saw massive growth and improvement for industry and human beings. This period witnessed productivity, the spread of positive information, and boosted the global economy.
If the first wave saw the birth of Microsoft, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and IBM. The second one saw the birth of Google, Yahoo, Oracle, and others. The third wave is seeing information technology combining the first two waves and reinventing itself in ways that are both-
- A Progression of the first two waves, and
- Combining the product + the smart quotient + the connectivity
The Cloud, AI, ML and High-Speed Internet Connectivity dominate the third wave of IT. (The hardware and the software are also far better developed and improved).
The third wave of IT has seen companies like Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Tesla dominate the world in terms of their product offerings and market cap!
Is Social Media part of the Internet of Things and Connected World?
The business of Social Media in human lives has become so dominant that it now has over 4 billion users on its platforms. Led by Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp), social media is an over-encompassing, dominant and real entity in our lives today.
The advantages and disadvantages of the connected world and the Internet of Things IoT are based majorly on considering social media’s role. From influencing democratic elections to fuelling revolutions, the power of social media can never be underestimated.
Some government leaders and legislators around the world think that social media is not a good medium or influence on humanity. I tend to disagree with that assertion.
China does not allow any platforms like Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, YouTube or Instagram to work within its borders. It does, however, have corresponding platforms of its own, which are nearly identical to the ones I mentioned.
- Social media has helped millions of people get a rightful voice in the world.
- It has helped thousands of small businesses make a living.
- Social Media has brought to the notice of international organizations severe cases of human rights abuses.
- It has been instrumental in fighting for gender equality and the rights of the LGBTQ communities.
- It has used the smart and connected world to spread a lot of hope, goodwill and positive culture all over the world.
No one can say that social media has not done anything of value in this world. However, it is right that there are some problems that social media has not been able to deal with.
The Dangers of the Internet of Things IoT and a Smart and Connected World
In the past couple of years, one sight that has dominated global press headlines has been Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appearing before numerous Government Committees. Google CEO, Sundar Pichai has also been at the receiving end of admonition from several European governments.
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and his team have also been on the radar of several groups on charges of Alexa listening in to families and people and storing sensitive information. The critics of IoT state that for Google, Facebook and Amazon, human beings are products!
Let us explain that a tad bit further…
The information about human beings-
Where they shop?
How they shop?
What kind of payment to they use?
What are their eating patterns?
How often do they travel?
What are some tools that they use?
Who are their friends?
Who are their active friends?
(In addition, 1000 other questions like these…)
The point that I am trying to make here is that data about human beings is considered the gold product.
This information or ‘data’ is then analyzed, processed, manipulated, influenced and sold to third-party vendors, or used internally.
The smart connected world then is becoming an instrument that is being controlled by a very small section of humanity. Billions of people think that they are taking independent, uninfluenced decisions, when in fact their decisions are conditioned on a subconscious level by superior tech.
Does this beg the assumption whether our Connected World is secure or not?
Governments can use data about every human action as a tool for checking and curbing individuals. (Governments are already doing this on a massive scale).
Data Privacy and Data Breaches Violations: Real or a Figment of Imagination?
The rise of big data management and governance cannot be looked in isolation from the connected world. It is this data, which is used by billion-dollar companies and governments to mold and influence public opinion.
In such cases, the use and abuse of data become very important for humanity. One simple and elementary point of clarification-
Data can be used to promote both- the good as well as the bad! It is up to people at the helm of affairs as to what they want to do it.
For example, data on climate change can help humanity innovate on alternative sources of fuel, clean drinking water, land, food and so on.
It can also be given to billion-dollar oil and gas companies, beverage companies to serve their own interests. Depending on the intent, data becomes a two-edged sword. You might say that I am biased, but I feel that currently, we are using data to further the interests of a very select section of the population!
The insecurity of the cloud, of network connection providers, of mobile tower companies, is not healthy. In 2018, a study from the University of Maryland found that there was a hacker attack every 39 seconds.
This is alarming to say the last. Even though we are making technological progressions, we are being unable to maintain the sanctity and privilege of our data. The secure and unbiased aspect of our connected world seems to be going amiss somewhere.
I am not going to lay the blame squarely on tech giants or governments or hackers. I think that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have become such a part of our lives that we can never wish them away.
So what can we do?
The Future of our Smart and Connected World?
Some years back (roughly around 6), experts were of the opinion that the connected world is more ‘hype’ than reality. I would really want them to comment on what they think of it now.
Before the last section ended, I put forward a question- what can we do?
Can we control the rate at which information technology is progressing?
No, we cannot.
Can we close companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others?
No, we cannot.
Can we hope to fix accountability and responsibility and devoid them of their ‘Free-Market’ logic?
If there is a ‘maybe’ attached to the third question/option, I feel that it this needs to be explored.
Who will explore this? Democratically elected governments of nation-states all over the world!
The idea is to be aware of the changes and technological advancements that are happening. It is also important to fix accountability and responsibility for the actions of tech giants.
You might think that how can an individual government stand up to the might of Google? We forget that people are products for tech giants.
People are citizens of governments. If we take away their products, they will not survive for a very long time.
Companies spend billions of dollars on lobbying, which is fair. They also want to earn money, which is also fair. However, if accountability is fixed, there are improvements. In the last couple of months, Google and Facebook are moving towards organic information and reach.
They have once again started prioritizing quality content and information. The numerous Google updates bringing down thousands of websites that are spam sites is a testament to that.
The Final Word
Love it or hate it, no one can ignore the smart and connected world.
There is no doubt that the connected world is making the world a better place. It is increasing efficiency, aiding human betterment and improving economies.
However, the same things that are making it so beneficial are also being mis-utilised by a few scrupulous sections. I feel that technology by itself has inherent goodness to it. It is man that manipulates it to suit his or her own interests.
If industry and government leaders set a common agenda for Information Technology, there will be progress. With 5G rolling out in the next couple of months (some countries and providers have already started), connectivity is going to bring the world even closer.
This will provide opportunities for both the good, the bad and the ugly.
No one better represents the ear of Smart, Connected and the IoT world than Elon Musk does. The modern-day Iron Man has revolutionized the way technological production is carried out. His companies use AI and ML to help consumers and products.
However, his quote on AI is something that keeps me wondering about what is next. I feel that it would be apt to end this article with Elon Musk’s quote on AI-
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, I’d probably say that. So we need to be very careful.” — Elon Musk
Please do share your thoughts about the article in the comments section below. I would request all to keep the discussion going by adding value to this topic…
Thanks, Philip V Ariel for the opportunity given on your space to share this post. I appreciate your time. Keep up the good work.
~ Mashum Mollah
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