The future is the Internet of Things—deal with it

Mark Curtis

Ars Technica: IoT is about to explode, perhaps literally, if privacy and security issues aren’t fixed.

Even before there was a World Wide Web, there was an Internet of Things.

In 1991, a couple of researchers at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab set out to solve the problem of making fruitless quests through the building to a shared coffee pot in the Lab’s Trojan Room. Using a video camera, a frame grabbing card, and a Motorola 68000 series-based computer running VME, they created a networked sensor that could show the current state of the pot. First configured as an X-Windows application, the Trojan Coffee Pot server was converted to HTTP in 1993, becoming one of the early stars of the Internet. It was soon joined by other networked sensors, including a number of hot tubs.


On the consumer side, while devices like Nest’s get much of the attention, wearable IoT devices are just starting to take off—despite the relatively low impact so far of high-profile efforts like the Apple Watch. “The Apple Watch may be on a slower liftoff cycle than other recent Apple hardware launches, but it has a complex number of use cases which are finding their home, purpose, and meaning,” said Mark Curtis, the chief client officer at Fjord, Accenture’s design consultancy. Within the next two to three years, he predicted, wrist-based devices will lose the need to be tethered to a smartphone. “At the same time, interactions between wearables and nearables (e.g., beacons, Amazon Echo, connected cars) will grow.”

The health field is the most immediate fit for wearables, because they can gather data that has a benefit without conscious human action. “A good example is our Fjord Fido diabetes platform,” Curtis said. “It requires complex linking between devices and data but would not have been possible without a smartwatch.”


Privacy becomes an even bigger issue with wearable devices. As Fjord’s Curtis noted, “Wearables  are worn publicly to express our sense of fashion and style, but at the same time, they can display extremely personal data. With these new devices, we may find ourselves ‘wearing’ some of the most personal aspects of ourselves: our conversations, relationships, and even our health. Unlike our smartphones, which we can conceal in the privacy of our pockets, wearables may ironically be the most intimate and public devices yet. When designing for this paradox, it’s important to keep in mind this precarious tipping point between public and personal.” 

Some of those issues can be addressed through design. Curtis identified Apple as doing a good job of protecting privacy in two design choices: by using the pulse sensor to detect when the watch has been taken off (and requiring a passcode to unlock it) and by having the display turn off when the watch is facing away from the owner.

Read the full article on Ars Technica.

Mark Curtis

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