Science fiction technology may not be as far off as we believe. The Internet of Things (IoT) uses the powerful combination of Wi-Fi and cloud technology to send information and perform actions through devices with Internet capabilities. This advance stems from the use of telemetry, decades-old machine-to-machine communication via wired sensors and transmitters. Now the wires have been replaced by radio waves that transfer a nearly infinite amount of data.
IoT technology ranges from entire smart cities that streamline traffic to fridges that detect when you’re low on milk and order it for you, among many other products and services. Devices such as Fitbit and Nest are growing in popularity due to their low price, practicality, and variety of automatic functions. Nearly any object you use regularly can be exchanged for a “smart” version that logs usage, performs tasks for you, or learns your schedule and changes the environment accordingly—rapidly making the ubiquitous dream of a “smart house” a present reality.
How can the Internet of Things be utilized in business?
The Internet of Things is becoming more prevalent, so it’s likely your business has considered a switch to some form of IoT device. Self-driving delivery trucks and self-monitoring security systems are industry-specific, but every business benefits from smart lighting and thermostats that reduce energy costs. Retail markets can use IoT to keep an accurate and immediate inventory, while devices like Square can turn your smartphone or tablet into a hassle-free cash register.
Though IoT technology is still relatively new, the potential economic impact looms on the horizon. Constant updates on the status and stock of households and workplaces means the average consumer is likely to purchase more products than they would buy on their own. All industries have the potential to use this technology to increase sales and efficiency wherever needed. IoT devices may eventually replace human counterparts who once performed the same function.
How can you secure your Internet of Things technology?
Security is the biggest risk factor when incorporating IoT technology into your business. Some factors you should take into consideration before committing to an IoT upgrade:
- Hacking: The most widespread IoT fear also happens to be the most rampant. If there’s a security loophole in a device that stores your credit card number or other personal information, hackers will try to exploit this vulnerability, often without encountering firewalls or other obstacles. Your safety could be compromised further by hackers who take over the entire system and hold your devices at ransom or even use your hardware to launch attacks against others without your knowledge. Understanding how your data is stored and accessed is something you must be aware of when considering an IoT device for your business.
- Surveillance: Any device with a microphone or camera can potentially be activated by a remote user with the right knowledge. That’s why sites that seek out the IP addresses of webcams with unprotected open ports stream millions of private video feeds to viewers willing to pay. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your device and the permissions its software may have to be sure no one can eavesdrop on you. Read the fine print!
- Company Security Policies: How does the manufacturer manage the security of their devices? Device security is the responsibility of the individual company, and since there aren’t yet any laws protecting IoT security, most companies depend on self-regulation and self-reporting. What safeguards has the company put in place to protect you, the consumer? What happens to your device if the company goes out of business?
- Education and Caution: People can become reliant on smart technology, so it’s important to know the hidden downfalls of using these devices in your business. Employees who come in contact with a company IoT device should be aware of the possible threats and security breaches they can cause.
Most of the security concerns with IoT technology have to do with the engineering of the devices themselves. For this reason, knowledge and discretion are the most important safeguards to take when considering the switch to an interconnected network of smart devices. Though it may be fun to imagine your work computer booting up when it senses your car pulling into the parking lot, the vulnerabilities of this technology cast a long shadow on its practicality.
This article is brought to you by Mark Anderson, CEO of Anderson Technologies, an IT Consulting firm in St. Louis.