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In his essay, O.K., Glass, Gary Shteyngart tells how, when he was writing his novel, Super Sad True Love Story, an editor said that a technology called The Eye, a computer device inside a contact lens, was unbelievable. Consequently, Shteyngart changed the device to a pendant that hangs around the neck. A few years later, he became one of the first people to try out the Google Glass. 

Shteyngart’s essay illustrates both advantages and disadvantages of the Internet of Things (IoT). While the Google Glass enables Shteyngart to access the internet, take videos, and share experiences with other Google Glass wearers, it also compels him to jerk his head, twitch, and squint in order to activate the glass’s functions. 

The typical illustration of IoT resembles the utopian vision of the Home of the Future, in which your house automatically heats or cools to your satisfaction, your coffee brews itself, your lights brighten or dim at just the right moments, and your garage door opens automatically just in time to let your car through. 

But how much connectivity is too much? 

The Rise of IoT

The Internet of Things has a role in many types of environments. In addition to home devices, objects connected to the internet can be found in city infrastructure projects, cars, wearables, and manufacturing companies. Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte Consulting, reports that a recent study discovered 75% of executives said IoT initiatives are underway in their organizations. The growing popularity of IoT in business stems not only from the way it streamlines processes, but from the smart assets it provides in the form of data that can be used to identify and solve problems. 

The Benefits of IoT

The IoT has large- and small-scale applications that can benefit communities, businesses, and individuals alike. With smart devices, cities can control lights and manage parking. Wearables, like the Fitbit, monitor activity levels and caloric intake to develop and recommend a more effective fitness plan. Businesses translate efficiencies into stronger bottom-lines with sensors that track and control manufacturing and distribution processes. Data gathered from the sensors used in IoT can be analyzed to streamline these processes, saving companies money.

A report by Verizon predicted that organizations that use IoT extensively could boost profitability by 10%. This increased profitability arises from insights gained from smart meters that gauge expenditures such as energy consumption. Information can also improve customer experience by personalizing it. Data can be used to predict customer demand, enabling organizations to best optimize their services.

IoT also helps improve working conditions by making a company a safer place to work. For example, vehicles can be equipped with devices that predict and prevent accidents. Workers can even be supplied with wearables that signal when they are in danger.

Somebody’s Watching You

While the benefits of the data gathered by IoT can be seen in the workplace, this information may become a liability for homeowners using smart devices. As magical as living in the world of the IoT might seem, every connection that creates convenience also creates the opportunity of a security breach. HP Security Research found that 70% of internet-connected devices are vulnerable to attack. Lack of encryption in these devices leaves them open to hacking.

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In addition, information from your home might be sent to a smart meter at a neighbor’s home where it might be accessed without your knowledge. While these meters collect unorganized fragments of data, what happens when this random information is collected and reviewed? Homeowners may wonder who has access to their home’s data and what use that information might have.

Outsiders could be listening in on data or commands registered on a smart meter, allowing them to interpret and track your movements. Cybercriminals could also input false measurements, disrupting control processes and sending incorrect commands.

Such interference could turn your life of convenience into a nightmare. While living with the Internet of Things could resemble a Disneyland-like world of household objects cheerfully singing “Be Our Guest”, it could just as easy to transform into the world of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with its madly proliferating mops and brooms.

The key to turning an IoT dystopia into a utopia is through maintaining control over your data so it can be transformed into an asset that helps your business reach its goals.

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