In 2020 we rely on technology for close to every aspect of our lives. Work, education, socializing, banking, booking holidays, and shopping are all done online and advancements in technology mean that these everyday tasks are becoming increasingly simple and accessible.
One of the biggest drivers behind this heightened convenience is the Internet of Things. A phrase first coined in 1999, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that are considered ‘smart’, that communicate with each other wirelessly and without human intervention.
You probably already make use of IoT devices, possibly without even knowing it. Maybe you have a smartwatch that alerts you when you have completed your daily exercise goal. Perhaps you have an AI assistant, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, which can turn on your lights and heating.
The acceleration of the tech sector means that these kinds of devices are only going to become more commonplace. It’s a great idea to get yourself acquainted with the Internet of Things, the benefits offered to consumers and businesses alike, and how to deal with emerging IoT security concerns.
What is the Internet of Things?
The IoT refers to devices that can communicate amongst themselves, wirelessly (as well as with their user). Another term for this is M-2-M or ‘machine to machine’ communication. Whilst it sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, the idea of IoT devices has been around for a considerable amount of time, and advancements in technology mean that the concept is finally starting to become reality. By 2025, it is estimated that there will be over 21 billion connected IoT devices.
To understand the IoT, take a concept that you are probably familiar with — smart homes — and apply it more broadly. The IoT promises to revolutionize how we capture and utilize information, which will be particularly useful for businesses and governments who are attempting to restructure cities to meet the demands of urbanization. Smart homes are set to become smart cities, interacting with smart corporations. The IoT brings with it the ‘fourth wave’ of industrialization.
Benefits to Consumers
The IoT promises mass benefits to consumers, largely centered around convenience and personalization. We have already begun to experience some of these advantages, including the presence of AI assistants in our homes and remote-controlled access to home heating, lighting, and security systems.
Customer personalization is an area that is expected to see large growth in the near future. IoT technology provides unprecedented access to consumer data, which can be used to produce highly individualised experiences. This may take the form of something as simple as your fridge telling you when you need to stock up on veggies, or the potentially life-saving ability of your smart-watch to gather medical information (heart rate, blood pressure) which can be passed onto your doctor in an emergency.
Benefits to Businesses
Businesses will now have at hand increased insight into consumer behavior, which is set to revolutionize the way that they interact with customers. IoT devices are expected to offer enhanced customer experiences and help analyze consumer behavior to considerably shorten the feedback loop between user and industry.
Within corporations themselves, the IoT is expected to greatly increase productivity, decrease operating costs, and back business decisions with manifold volumes of data.
What to do about those Security Concerns
Unfortunately, IoT brings with it a whole set of security concerns. Having greater numbers of devices connected and sharing data increases the risk of personal information being hacked by cybercriminals. IoT devices are often left vulnerable without any in-built protection or cybersecurity, which is not always a top concern of manufacturers.
There are a few basic steps you can take in order to secure the privacy of your home network. These include:
- Using a strong encryption method for your Wi-Fi network
- Change default usernames and passwords
- Check the security and privacy settings of your devices
- Keep software up-to-date
- Disable device features that you don’t need
- Install two-step authentication
The IoT promises increased convenience and productivity to consumers and businesses alike. By taking advantage of all that it has to offer, whilst remaining aware and acting upon security concerns, your daily life is only set to change for the better.