Some weeks ago, my father bought us some light bulbs for in and around the house. These lightbulbs were special, you could them turn on via an app on your phone. Imagine a 50-year old man running around the house full of excitement, turning all the lights on and off with his phone in his hand. It was a rather amusing thing to see. Of course, my fathers excitement was also understandable; back in his days there was nothing like this. These light bulbs with an internet connection are one of the many IoT devices available for consumers.
The Trend of 2016
The Internet of Things (IoT) was announced as one of the three biggest trends of 2016, which is not a very surprising fact. Look around. How many devices are in your direct surroundings that are connected to the Internet? And how many of these things are not computers, smartphones or tablets?
IoT is growing at a fast pace. Our world is becoming more and more connected, but it still has a long way to go according to researcher Steffen Sorrell. In 2015, there were 13.4 billion devices connected to the Internet, which is twice the amount of people on Earth. In 2020, this amount will rise to 38.5 billion connected devices.
The majority of these devices, however, will be in the industrial and public services sectors instead of in our homes. This is because IoT can help businesses with becoming a service based company, which is something of big value for them.
So far, there have been five key verticals identified within IoT (source: IoT Primer, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research):
- Wearables – mostly consumer goods such as watches and bracelets.
- Cars – the biggest player in this field is Tesla with their developments of self-driving cars.
- Homes – such as the light bulbs my father bought, but also things like smart thermostats and security.
- Cities – think about traffic and street lights, parking meters and the power supply.
- Industrials – IoT has big markets in the industry, transportation, oil & gas and healthcare sectors.
Connectivity does require work though. To get IoT to work for us, we need to depend on three things; infrastructure, software platforms and devices.
The infrastructure for IoT is the internet. Broader and faster Wi-Fi and cellular networks will only be a benefit for the IoT. Then we need a device. The device is the actual product that will be eventually sold. To activate communication between the infrastructure and the device, a software platform is needed.
Dangers of IoT
Big developments do not come without risks. Millions of consumers and businesses connect all kinds of devices to the Internet with very minor security precautions. This makes them vulnerable without them even knowing this.
Take security cameras. These are easy to install and accessible from all over the world. However, when you do not secure your device very well, someone with bad intentions could use the camera as well. The same counts for other devices with an internet connection, like hard disks and routers.
An example of bad security is the hack what happened last October. Thousands of poorly protected IoT devices were infected with malware by hackers. The hackers’ purpose was to sabotage internet services used by popular websites as Reddit, Spotify, Twitter & AirBnB. The first attack lasted two hours and was targeted on Dyn-datacenters in Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York. Users in the whole country had trouble using the websites. The malware specifically focused on poorly protected devices, such as IP-cameras and digital video recorders.
IoT is a wonderful technological development which is already giving us much value. However, we must keep an eye on our safety and make sure we protect our devices good enough, otherwise IoT might work against you.
If you would like to know more about the Internet of Things, Goldman Sachs has done a whole lot of research about IoT:
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This blogpost is part of a series about the Startupbootcamp Smart City & Living verticals.