16 July 2015

Looking at problems in the world around you and finding innovative new solutions is the hallmark of an entrepreneur. It’s a trait we should look to develop and nurture in others, and hopefully this will be one of the results of the government’s latest ‘Internet of Things’ competition, which is encouraging businesses to solve “UK city” problems with smart technology.

usb300x225Firstly, it’s worth just clarifying the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ which – like most buzz words and phrases – is fairly ambiguous. Essentially, we’re talking about smart devices, connected to each other and the internet, and using sensors to respond to their surroundings.

Take a relatively commonplace example; the smart thermostat, which you can control remotely from your phone. At one of our recent round table events, another example was brought up; that of rubbish bins equipped with sensors to figure out when waste collection is needed, leading to better efficiency.

The potential of this area of innovation is huge and goes way beyond the home, of course. Yet there is an important caveat to bear in mind and that is security. A study by HP found that the average ‘Internet of Things’ device has 25 security flaws, and they found this out by studying the ten most popular devices. The problems lie in the amount of data collected by these pieces of technology and the security of the way this data is communicated. According to HP, 70 per cent of the smart objects they looked at transmitted that data on an unencrypted network.

Don’t get me wrong, I think technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate and I encourage digital innovation wholeheartedly, but what I would question is whether we are putting enough emphasis on the cybersecurity layer of the process. Could the companies producing ‘Internet of Things’ technologies work more closely with cybersecurity firms to ensure these products are as safe as they can be?

At its best, technology simplifies and enhances people’s lives. It opens up new opportunities for education and helps us make new connections, but where there are people trying to do good for the world, there are always others looking to exploit it. This is where cybersecurity plays its part, and we need to design the next generation of connected devices with that in mind.

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