A relatively new term has entered into our vocabulary; Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to any device that is not primarily a computing device but is equipped with embedded networking to connect it to the Internet. For example, for years the connected home has captured the minds of visionaries. Internet-connected refrigerators will know when you need to order milk and Internet-connected microwaves will scan the barcode on a TV dinner and heat it to perfection. The connected home promises a refrigerator that is never empty and a microwave that never burns popcorn.
Back in 2004 I visited the Matsushita in Osaka, Japan to view some of their emerging technologies. Matsushita is better known as Panasonic in the rest of the world. Japan has been a leader in mobile technologies and in high-tech computing devices so I was very interested in what Matsushita had to show. I was able to see a door that was equipped with a camera, microphone, and remote activation so that a person in the home could see who was at their door on their TV and then talk to them. They could then remotely open the door to let the person in. I saw many other technologies such as this, but the term IoT has not taken hold yet.
Today, these devices are becoming available, but it is manufacturing, research, and other business goals that are really driving adoption. Manufacturing is using IoT to take measurements from equipment to better identify potential problems, maintain equipment, and optimize asset utilization and ROI. Research is using IoT to discover more about the natural world by connecting it to computing devices. New data is being created by these devices that is used in analytics and complex mathematical models to learn more about our world. This is the IoT of today.
This is not to say that IoT is absent from the home. Rather, Internet-connected TVs, cameras, and other devices are making their way into homes at an increasing rate. As such, this presents a security risk for some homes as these devices are often rarely patched nor monitored.
IoT promises to bring many changes to our world, but those wishing to adopt IoT should seriously consider how it will be securely implemented. If IoT devices do not need to communicate directly with other devices on a network, it is a best practice to segment them from other devices so that compromise of an IoT device does not lead to a compromise of the entire network. Other security controls will need to be implemented to guard the data they create and the functionality they allow to expensive and critical systems. Connecting systems such as hydroelectric power to the Internet can save money but it presents a significant risk to critical infrastructure that will need to be balanced against the advantages.