Look around your home or office. To the left is a new Amazon Echo. To the right, your Siri-enabled iPhone. Across the hall is a Nest thermostat.And each device is collecting data on you, your habits, and your lifestyle – every minute.
The suspected CIA spying tools that WikiLeaks has dumped have been linked to hacking attempts on at least 40 targets in 16 countries, according to security firm Symantec.
Are there any examples of consumer-level #IoT devices that increase your level of privacy?
I cannot think of any.
- Does anyone other than us weird computer scientists think privacy and security are problems?
- Will consumers readily give up all privacy to use a new toy?
The next post, below, is about consumer product manufacturers putting Wi-Fi into everything – from children’s toys to coffee markets, refrigerators, washing machines and products that do not seem to offer real consumer benefits for being always connected.
The obvious benefits include:
- Manufacturers learning about how their products are used, identifying failure or maintenance problems, and learning how to build better products from that information,
- Collection of marketing data to use in selling more stuff to consumers.
The actual product features do not seem to offer real benefits to the consumer, though. Yet the consumer has likely given up a bit of privacy to enable these capabilities.
It’s not just ovens and refrigerators that are getting wi-fi, often bundled with cameras that let you see your food. It’s also coffee makers, digital thermometers, crock pots and virtually any other small appliance you can imagine.
The mostly likely use of Wi-Fi in a plethora of basically dumb home devices (do refrigerators really need Wi-Fi too?) is so manufacturers can keep tabs on how often their devices are used, and how they are used. In some cases, the data might even be sold for marketing purposes – perhaps someone that makes a lot of coffee is a candidate for blood pressure medication?
Once products ship, the manufacturer is unlikely to see the product again, except for a few returns. They have only a general idea of how the product is used, based on market surveys, or on product returns.
IoT technology enables manufacturers to monitor products after they are in use at a customer site as the product can conduct self checks and monitor product wear and tear – and send that information back to the manufacturer to identify weaknesses in the product.
Other manufacturers see benefits to monitoring their product usage too:
As prices of communication equipment and sensors continue to drop, smart manufacturers will be able to gather information from a wide range of devices. With connectivity enabled via IoT, these devices will be able to send valuable information back to the seller or manufacturer. For example, a refrigerator could send a signal to the manufacturer indicating a detected malfunction. With this data, the manufacturer would be able to put in measures to prevent the problem in other products in the line. In another example, an air conditioner might be able to detect when it needs maintenance and send a message to the manufacturer, which can then initiate remote maintenance service. As a result, the customer will be happier and the manufacturer can save on the cost of doing business.
On the flip side, some products like Windows 10, collect a very large volume of data and “share” that with Microsoft. Such data can include, for example, the list of applications you have installed on your computer.
Our phones track our location, what stores and restaurants we visit, ISPs may track our web wanderings, CCTV and license plate scanners monitor us in public, our expenses are tracked via credit card databases, Android phones log recordings of our voice in the Google cloud – and IoT enables the tracking of what we watch on TV, how often we open the refrigerator door … the primary business model of the Internet is 24 x 7 surveillance.
What do you think of this?