The State of the IoT: Issues Current and Ahead

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become nearly omnipresent, as the billions of connected devices become an increasingly prevalent part of our everyday work and personal lives.

As the network of objects equipped with sensors, software and connectivity grows, so do questions about security and ethical use. The question remains for business leadership concerned with the state of IoT: issues currently and ahead.

Network Issues Abound

In 2013, there were approximately 9.9 million objects in the IoT. That number has skyrocketed. Gartner predicts the IoT will total 20 billion by 2020, with Verizon estimating 5.4 billion B2B IoT connections by then.

The sheer volume of connected objects means vast numbers of connections. That means increased strain on systems. Wireless networks that are sufficient today will likely need to be expanded to meet growing numbers of clients.

Those new networked objects will be generating petabytes worth of data that needs to be stored and analyzed. That means there’s a growing need for storage, whether via data centers, cloud-based solutions or a combination.

With massive increases in connections, network performance may also become an issue, requiring performance monitoring platforms that scale accordingly.

Regularity of Data Transmission

With so many new objects, there are going to be new data transmission patterns. Many objects, whether connected to consumer products or business tools, will transmit infrequently, often in short bursts at irregular intervals. Polling network rates, typically done in five-minute intervals, may not account for the short-burst patterns required by new IoT objects.

New, high-frequency polling tools will be necessary, some in seconds- or second-long intervals, may be necessary to secure proper network performance.

The IoT offers enhanced connectivity and control, making the networks enticing to hackers.

Ethical Considerations

While connected devices are not yet pervasive, they may very well become so, and there is a decided lack of ethical guidelines around their use and the use of data generated. Here are a few of the ethical considerations that will need to be developed:

  • Legal Considerations. Today, there is very little legal structure to holding manufacturers liable for harm done to others by connected objects. The technology has simply evolved faster than policy.
  • Choice. Take the growth of self-driving cars. What are the ethical considerations of an automated car that needs to choose whether to swerve into a group of pedestrians or strike a car in front of it?
  • Physical and Cyber. Fields like medicine and wearable objects are further blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds. There are few ethical standards around privacy and use of data generated by interrelated systems, especially as devices become an increasing part of medical care.

Security Gaps

As the number of objects expands, so too do the threats. At the September 2016 DEF CON, a major internet security conference, experts identified 47 vulnerabilities among objects ranging from wheelchairs to thermometers. A month later, a massive distributed denial-of-service attack hit Dyn, an internet performance company. Hackers launched the attack via connected devices like baby monitors and webcams to prevent consumers from accessing major websites and streaming services.

The threats of DDoS and ransomware attacks are significant, as are more serious attacks involving smart cars, homes, and buildings.

The IoT provides a dizzying array of new opportunities to simplify work and life, but the technology is well ahead of the policy and security considerations that are still evolving.