Risky business working with IoT Tech?

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more and more prevalent in our modern age, you have to wonder whether there’s been more risk as well. After all, having things watching or listening all day every day is certainly a lot different than just when you’re accessing a device.

Cybersecurity is a big deal to a lot of people, both consumer and company, but the fact is that not a lot of companies are really looking into the security of the devices they’re using which are tied into the IoT. From TV’s to toasters, thermostats to baby monitors — these are just some of the IoT-enabled devices that have already been hacked. Even with those risks, it seems companies are only bringing more and more IoT-enabled devices into their homes.

Just how many companies is this affecting?

As crazy as it may seem, a survey conducted just last year consisting of around 1,000 enterprise IT buyers, 71% are already gathering IoT data and 90% plan on increasing their IoT spending for this year.  With those numbers, we can clearly see most companies are definitely investing in IoT technology.

Data tracked by devices include movement tracking, purchases, equipment and supply tagging, and much more. With so much different data being collected from various devices on a minute-by-minute basis, companies would be crazy not to invest.

Even with their multitude of uses for companies of all different areas of expertise, the biggest issue still in everybody’s way is security. As complex as these new machines and devices are, they simply don’t have the appropriate level of encryption or a strong enough password.

What’s being done to counter this?

Not a lot. Companies are wholly unprepared for a cyber attack from an IoT device. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute shows that 55% of IT department respondents say that there is a lack of quality assurance and testing procedures for IoT apps.

With competition so high as companies race to ship out new, exciting products, errors are bound to happen. The fact is that they’re just moving too fast, without enough internal policies, which leads to errors in code.

In fact, nearly 50% of companies believe that they were victims of a cyberattack or security breach thanks to an IoT app. Interestingly, also roughly 50% said they would consider increasing their budget or put new regulations in place if a severe hacking incident took place..

With over 20 billion devices expected to be installed by the end of this decade, many of which will be used by government or businesses, I’d say it’s already time to start becoming more prepares. The hackers aren’t going to wait for you to get around to it, so why should you wait for them?

Helping to build a bigger future with the IoT

Construction is one of the oldest professions we’ve got. Food, water, and shelter — our three base necessities. It’s been around a long time and it’s evolved over those years from sticks all the way to our modern apartments and skyscrapers. As with many things, building is ready to be made better by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Real-time data is a huge advantage in the industry. Constant activity on your site, however large, is made more easily manageable by sensors without needing to be present. An example of this comes from wood. Sealing wood work is best done in an environment with less humidity. Knowing that your site has high humidity today means you can schedule the work for tomorrow and get people working on other projects in the meantime.

Sensor data doesn’t have to be restricted to building, though. It can be used for detecting leaks or breaks in a system, preventing wood warping, and much more. Larger companies who have systems like these in place have actually saved millions of pounds with these small preventative measures.

Another benefit of larger companies, or any company with multiple people on a project, is that the data can be used for many different means all at once. Contractors, drivers, inspectors; given the resources, they can all see exactly what they need to efficiently do their jobs. Tracking a project, and all the information involved, can become such a mess without a good system. Files, folders, and countless amounts of old data leads to mistakes. With real-time updates, the data will be easy to find and easy to make decisions based on.

Networking all this together won’t be easy, though. Networks now need to become faster and more reliable on building sites where things constantly move and take shape. Right now, one solution to that is allowing real-time information to flow through the site using LTE. Flexibility is key in creating a workable solution and helping to make work sites more easily manageable.

As improvements are made to our technology and the Internet of Things, we’ll be able to start determining better start times, work flows, and resource allocation. Communication will end up being improved, along with the efficiency of workers and managers.

In 2020, it’s expected for the construction industry to grow to be nearly £8 trillion. The industry must also grow its returns, though. The IoT is one way to make that happen.

Transportation: Big Problem, Small Solutions

The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to make impacts in industries everywhere. Flexibility is the key in its design. From baby monitors to city infrastructure, it can be found to fit just about anywhere. One place it’s expected to make one of the largest impacts in our world though, is transportation.

Cars, planes, and public transportation like subways are just a few examples where IoT integration is highly anticipated.

In the United States, traffic congestion is an annual cost of a whopping $160 billion. With ride-sharing, smart public transportation, and autonomous cars, this number could be cut heftily.

Autonomous cars is one solution

Of course, it also comes with a few benefits more than just money in our wallets. Autonomous cars, for instance, can help the disabled become more mobile than ever before. They can reduce that road congestion, using roads more efficiently, as well as increasing commuters’ free time which they could use to nap, catch up on work, or any number of things.

The great thing about this is that nearly everyone relies on some mode of transportation.  Whether you’re taking your own car to work, a bus to the store, or the subway home, it affects us all.  Less people stuck in traffic and shorter commutes means less CO2 being released into the air, too.  Better for us and the environment!

Improving our infrastructure is a must

Congestion won’t just disappear, though. In fact, the root cause of congestion is actually city infrastructure. As it turns out, this too can be much more efficient than the timer system most of us are stuck with. With interconnected smart lights working together with autonomous smart cars, the roads would start flowing more like a river than a barely trickling stream.

It’s a lot easier said than done, though.  In a lot of areas, our roads are simply falling apart.  If we can’t even get the government to fix potholes, there’s little hope they’ll spend the money on smart lights.  Integrating cars into the system as well… let’s just say we’re at least a decade away from this reality.

Ride-sharing is another option

We’ve already got dozens of apps from Uber to Lyft to help. yet less than 10% of workers carpool. Over 50% of people who use ride-sharing apps only use it in special circumstances (read: falling over drunk), while another 26% only use it about once a month.

So what’s the solution to making more people interested in ride-sharing? Many believe it to be public-private partnerships. In short, make them more official. As it stands, even I feel like those apps don’t hold their drivers to a high standard and so I try my best to avoid using them. Experts have even go so far as to claim that with public-private partnerships, they could achieve “100% shared mobility for entire populations”.

The IoT is more than ready to break the mold of our transportation expectations, a mold which is already cracking thanks to population increases and our less-than-stellar infrastructure. Autonomous cars are already being developed by countless companies, while Continental tries to solve our smart light situations. The future is on its way. Reduced costs, carbon emissions, and increased mobility for us all is on the horizon.

Are Hearables and the IoT Affecting Your Privacy?

Security is always an issue when it comes to the IoT, but what about privacy? With so many devices listening in like the Amazon Echo, what exactly is being done to make sure the things you say aren’t being recorded or listened to by someone? The device IS connected to the internet after all, and we all know that hackers can target anything these days.

Well, the truth is that some devices that listen in actually do record what you’re saying. They share these recordings right to the cloud, too. Some of these recordings are because of laws or company policies requiring certain employee-client interactions to be recorded. Others might be for real-time language translations to someone in a different country. Whatever the reason, you should make sure you know what your device is and isn’t sending. A good word of warning is to never give sensitive information out, such as credit card numbers, when using such a device.

So what’s being done about this on the larger scale? Honestly, not a whole lot just yet. These devices have sprung up very fast and regulations haven’t had much time to develop. Questions must be asked though. Should employers be allowed to monitor each and every employee interaction in the workplace? Or perhaps they should be given a certain degree of privacy. But where does that privacy start and end? On another line, should those same employers be allowed to sell these conversations to research firms?

These sorts of questions are difficult to answer, both ethically and legally. Where does one draw the line and what do the answers mean to legality in court? Certainly, if one did wrong and bragged about it or threatened someone in work, it should be admissible, correct? But then at the same time, what if they were only blowing off steam or even joking around and were actually innocent.

With projections saying that hearables will be somewhere around the £4 billion area by 2020, avoiding them may be near impossible, anyway.  For a brief look at what the future of this industry might be, check out this device called “The Aware”, meant to be a headphone with brain and biometric scanning.

The fact is that this technology is already here and has been for a while. Right now, regulations are few and far between. I would expect them to start becoming more commonplace on devices that listen soon, though. Until then, I suggest you err on the side of caution before buying a hearable device. You never know what rule or regulation might start cropping up now that the IoT is becoming more and more real each day.

Time to take the Instinct for a Test Drive!

Vehicles are one of the world’s most used items, and soon, the Internet of Things will be helping drivers. Soon though, may be sooner than you think, thanks to the Instinct Concept.

Just a few days ago, Peugeot, a French car manufacturer, unveiled the Instinct Concept. The vehicle blends self-driving tech, home automation, and cloud-based connectivity to help define user profiles. It pulls in information from wearables, phones, and other connected gear to adapt and improve your driving experience.

It doesn’t just gather information though, it also allows you to connect to those devices from inside the vehicle. You can easily review your calendar, plan things with the virtual assistant, or even check viewing schedules on your television to know what you might want to watch when you come home. There’s a number of different things you could connect and could do, all from inside the Instinct Concept.

Peugeot isn’t alone in this endeavor. A number of other automakers have started designing their own smart cars already.  The key difference with them is that many chose to partner with Amazon’s Alexa. Peugeot, however, decided to go with Samsung’s cloud platform for data collection. With it, as it would be with Alexa, the vehicle will have it’s very own AI.  Using their AI, you’ll be able to easily speak vocal cues to control it in a variety of ways.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a smart car if it couldn’t adapt to your driving needs, now would it? The Instinct Concept has two driving modes and two self-driving modes. Yes, that’s right — we’re finally getting to a place where driving will become obsolete. That’s not to say it will be commonplace any time soon, but the Instinct Concept is a stepping stone to that very thing.

One of the self driving modes, dubbed Autonomous Sharp, allows for the quickest journey from point A to point B. Best used for work, appointments, and the like. The other mode, Autonomous Soft, gives people a view and more comfort. This mode is best used for road trips or exploring a city, or even just naps if that’s what you’re looking for.

Before you pull out your wallet though, know that the Instinct Concept is not yet available for sale. The vehicle has not yet been tested even though the underlying technology has been extensively. Their timeline right now is to aim for a 2020 release, so get excited for the future, because it’s coming at you fast!

Technology and our Environment

One thing we often overlook with technology is nature. Sometimes, we think the two forces are in direct opposition with each other, but that’s not the case with the IoT and in fact, it can actually help in a number of ways from crop management to helping with climate change. It can even be used to build more efficient dams! There are a number of possibilities from infrastructure to commercial that the IoT can help safeguard nature while improving our lives.

Let’s start with infrastructure using dams as our example. As you may or may not know, our dams are used for a variety of reasons from suppressing floods to providing water for irrigation, consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and hydroelectric power. They work by storing a set amount of water and safely releasing excess so that pressure doesn’t build on the wall, causing it to crack and/or break.

How can the IoT help with this? There are a number of ways! Firstly, a sensor can be used to determine the height the water while another sensor determines the rate at which it’s growing. This will help to determine whether water needs to be released and how much needs to be at what rate. Sensors inside the pipes transporting the water can also be used to determine whether there are any leaks, which could cause catastrophic problems should they go unchecked.

How does any of this help the environment? Any failure in the dam could cause flooding in nearby areas including rivers or residential areas. Any change in an environment so suddenly will absolutely affect things like wildlife and soil. Since these sensors will be transmitting data in real time, there would be a much faster presence on-site should anything start failing which will help to prevent disaster.

If you’re more interested in how a commercial business could help more in the environment using the IoT, then I’ll talk about farming, which is objectively the most natural commercial business out there, and we’ll be starting from the ground up.

Soil is probably one of, if not the, most important things to a farmer. After all, I haven’t seen to many crops being grown on rocks… With a soil moisture sensor, you can determine exactly how much water each specific area of your fields should be getting, but that’s not all. On the market right now there are also sensors which can determine soil fertility — basically what minerals are in the soil you’re testing. These two factors are extremely important in proper crop growth and knowing when to farm what and when to give the field time to nourish itself and renew its soil.

How does this help the environment? Well, we’re not wasting good soil on the wrong plants or good water on an already overwatered onion. We’re also not having to go out ourselves as the process is made more autonomous, giving us more time and resources to dedicate elsewhere or to other crops. Also, with it being able to rain any time, we’ll be able to easily tell our watering systems exactly how much water is needed, meaning we won’t waste a single drop.

As you can see, the uses are varied and widespread, but a small change can help our environment drastically and can even help to prevent disaster. This technology will only become more advanced, too.

Efficiency using the IoT

Work harder.  Work faster.  Work smarter.  All those words wrap up into one thing — working efficiently.  The less you have to work at something, the more time you have on others, and that’s the whole point of the Internet of Things.

The IoT is designed to help automatise different aspects of a job or a task and give that information to you in real time.  It can be as simple as “how cold is this ice cream” or as complex as computing how much inventory ice cream is left, how fast the ice cream is being sold, how much time is expected of having that ice cream left, and then sending out a truck which will take just enough time to get there so that you’re restocked with your raspberry fruity twist ice cream, fresh and from the freezer just in time.

How this works is entirely specific to the industry though and can help in a number of ways.  For instance, if your company is exceptionally labour intensive then perhaps you’d do best in using the IoT to determine your own most efficient employees that get the most products out with the fewest mistakes.  A sensor in a conveyor belt determines how many products are sent out, and a sensor at whatever quality checking station you might have would help to determine their overall quality assurance.

Without this sort of system, you’re stuck with plain numbers written up by Bob, Joe, or Sue which they themselves got from the floor manager that happened to catch James over there slacking off.  It’s inefficient and frankly far from a perfect system.  But if you can look up at your computer screen in real time and see who’s sending out 50 boxes a minute compared to this guy doing only 4, then look back at previous records to see he’s been having poor numbers all week, then not only do you have a system that works, but you have a system that isn’t biased and is instantaneous.

If you’re using a system that focuses more on machinery, the IoT can help with that as well!  Whether it be setting up delivery times to be spot on with when the trucks are coming out and also speeding up or slowing down machine output speeds to correlate with rushed shipping, you can easily do it all with just a few clicks of a button.  See your inventory, see your production, see your trucks pulling up, getting stocked, and being away in mere minutes.  You can even have text alerts set up should a problem arise with one of your machines.

No matter what industry you work in, it’s almost a guarantee that it can be made more efficient with the help of the IoT.  Now’s the time to invest and reap the benefits for years to come.

Weather the Storm using IoT

One of the places where the Internet of Things can have the biggest impact is in our city infrastructure.  Not only will it help to decrease spending in the long term, but it’ll also help to make our systems more efficient and less prone to error.

In my own town this past month, I’ve been plagued with horrible storms including tornadoes and flooding.  Damage has been done that not only lost individual people and government employees vast amounts of money but also lives.  I wondered what we might have been able to do to prevent some of these losses.

First, you have to understand the problem.  Without a large amount of soil to help collect excess water, we have to use pipes to collect and transport the water to rivers.  Simple right?  Unfortunately, not.  This dirty water has a higher temperature than river water which will affect the ecosystem of and around the river.  Also, a dramatic increase in water being pushed to the river could cause flooding itself, simply moving the problem from one place to another.  So what can we do?

Spring flood

Moisture sensors are a part of that answer.  By putting moisture sensors in the soil, you start up a system to divert that rainwater to different areas at different times in the exact quantities you need.  The system will be very flexible, giving you control over what areas need more or less water and when to shut it off.

Of course, in intense flooding like I’d had, water would still end up being diverted to the rivers as our last resort, meaning we would hurt our ecosystem, right?  Not if we do things right.

Turbidity sensors (sensors which measure how dirty water is) can be used to help with this.  When plugged into a simple filtering system, you have a quick and easy way to control your flood waters without over-watering soil and plants or hurting our ecosystem.

One of the best things about a system like this is that it’s really not very expensive.  We’re not trying to filter for drinking water nor do we need any intricate system.  It could easily be scaled up or down based on the size of your city, urban or rural areas, or any number of factors.  It’s flexible, fast, cheap, and efficient, and most importantly — it’ll help save lives, money, and our environment.

Chicken, Ice Cream, and… Vaccines?

As we all know, food scares have always been a major problem. Every other week, there’s some contamination or another and they just seem to be a problem no one can really get a handle on. Well, Chick-fil-a has decided to try and conquer one major area of that problem — refrigeration. And they’re doing it all with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors provided by a company called “Monnit”.

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Chick-fil-a has decided to implement temperature sensors into their walk-in coolers and freezers. Two dozen chains in Georgia are going to be outfitted with these sensors and gateways, provided by Monnit, to track the temperature of the units. Previously, store managers were required to check the temperatures themselves every 3-4 hours, but that does little for times after closing or holidays, and a malfunctioning freezer over night could lead to upwards of £15,000 being wasted right there.

Working together with Monnit, Chick-fil-a will be installing about 20 sensors, which will monitor and relay that information to the gateway every hour and then back to Monnit’s cloud service. If a temperature falls between a certain point, a text will be sent to the store manager who can then go check the problem and handle it accordingly. In an industry where fresh food is quite literally the lifeblood of the company, even a few hours can make the difference between saving the chicken or serving up a salmonella-filled scandal.

Not only does this help subvert scandals, it also helps prove the steps you’ve gone through to ensure proper care is met with insurance companies. After all, it’s pretty easy to show evidence when you’ve got temperature readings every hour on the hour provided.

Monnit, by the way, doesn’t just work with chicken-enthusiasts. Popular ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s also uses their services in the same way to ensure their ice cream is always frozen. Even the Center for Disease Control uses Monnit to host sensitive information and temperature settings in their labs on its servers.

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All this really shows you just how diverse the IoT is. Even when talking about a specific product or service, like temperature sensors, you can see the different ways they can be used from storing frozen foods to keeping lab equipment at the proper temperatures..

Connecting your Home

Recently, I wrote about the multitude of sensors out there which you could use to connect different projects. Today, let’s look at a single project and what kind of sensors you’d likely want to include in it. What project, you ask? Well, none other than your very own smart home!

To start off, let’s look at the outside and work our way in. First off, for security purposes, or even just for ease, you’d probably want an optical sensor connected to your doorbell. Ding-dong. Now you can see who’s at the door from your phone, computer,
TV, or wherever you might have it connected to.

To further your comfort, we move on to the next sensor — door and window sensors. These too can be used for security, alerting you when a door or window opens or closes, or they could even connect seamlessly to the same device as the doorbell did so you can easily open the door for whoever might be there. Should you include humidity or moisture sensors, they could also automatically close if it starts raining.

If you’re going to have automatic doors, may as well make the garage door the same, right? Connect it up and you’ll never have to wonder if you left the door open.

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Next, let’s move inside and talk about your new smart thermostat. This would pair amazingly well with the doors and windows as, if it’s hot inside to a certain degree, you could have those windows open automatically, have the thermostat change on its own, or manually change it from your phone.

I think you’re starting to see just how connected your home really becomes, right? Well, we’re not done yet.

These next sensors you’ll want are for protection not of crime, but of disasters. Fire/Co2 and Leak sensors are a must. These don’t just help protect you, but a lot of the time, they’ll also help you save money! Insurance companies often give discounts to people who go the extra step in protecting their homes. It’s a win-win.

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Lastly, you need a hub if you’re going to have all these sensors, right? One quick and easy place to access your sensors and control them. Luckily, there’s a smart home hub and intercom system on the market just for that. Not only do you have access to all these different devices and have a way to control them, you’ve also got the added benefit of being able to talk to people all the way across the house without having to yell. You could even use the system at work to check on your child, spouse, or ageing parents.

Of course, these are just some of the possibilities out there right now that you could have installed in your home. Add in all the different smart products and appliances you could buy and you’ll probably never need to leave your bed again! Remember, these products don’t just make things easier for us either, they also help us save money through decreased insurance rates, and better protection. Be smart and start making your home a smart home.