Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Techy Tuesday - the Internet of Things (IoT)

I know you've heard the term because both Borepatch and Denninger have posted on it; it's also one of the big buzzwords in the electronics industry now.  It even has conferences of its own.

So when an industry writer takes on the Next Big Thing, I find that encouraging.  Especially, this thing.  Author Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent for EE Times writes in "Convince Me Why Washer Must Talk to Grill":
MADISON, Wis. — At the risk of sounding a bit curmudgeonly, I have to confess one thing. While there’s certainly something positive to be said about the Internet of Things (IoT), I can’t help feeling suspicious, weary, and a bit turned off by the whole idea.

Aside from big-number projections (e.g., Cisco predicts 50 billion IoT devices by 2020), which would tempt anyone into becoming an IoT cheerleader, I haven’t seen a single credible-use scenario that might lure the average consumer onto the IoT bandwagon.

Honestly, it creeps me out to think about my devices at home talking to one another, doing stuff without my involvement, and talking about my habits -- good and bad -- to total strangers (advertisers, service providers, or just more machines), behind my back. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about this. At all. [Bold added - SiG]
That emphasized text raises an important point.  Those of us in the technical fields have a tendency to think of something that would be cool and then do it simply because it can be done.  On the other hand, the vast majority of people are not technophiles like us who do things because we can.  They want to know just what they're getting for what they spend on the interconnectedness and thanks (in my opinion) to Edward Snowden, they increasingly want to know what privacy they're giving up to get that interconnection.  Yoshida continues:
With this in mind, I’ve started asking industry sources for credible scenarios under which IoT devices improve my life by talking to each other. Readers are welcome to chime in below. Give me your best shot. Convince me why my washing machine needs to strike up a conversation with my gas grill.
The answers leave her flat.  They're the same old home automation stuff that's been sold and resold for years.  Oooh: a house that knows you're in the living room and can turn off lights for you, or change the temperature while you're coming home from work.   The thing is, when you leave the trite and unoriginal, you end up at creepy pretty fast.  Richard Doherty, research director at something called the Envisioneering Group says:
  • IoT will mean “peace of mind” allowances. For example, IoT could let us know if Grandma opened the fridge this morning or used her Bluetooth toothbrush.
  • IoT will also create insurance access. Did Rick walk his requisite one mile a day to earn his present insurance discount?
  • IoT offers public services. Are enabled air conditioners being throttled back 10% for brownout prevention?
In my mind, all of those get darned close to (or jump over) the "none of your damned business" line.  I admit I would have felt better about my elderly mom living by herself with the first one (assuming she agreed to have it), but I'll have no part of the other two.  But they go on from there into asking who controls what information is being handled and how it gets around.  Predictably, the industry giants are starting Sumo matches; throwing salt and trying to force each other out of the ring.  Intel, Qualcomm, AT&T, Time Warner and Google (among others) all want to be the one to see you crank your thermostat warmer some winter and promptly send you an ad for sweaters.  
(source) Creep you out, yet?


  1. Yes it does creep me out, especially considering what some of the IoT television sets have been proven to do!

    If I'm ever forced to buy some of this nonsense due to NON-IoT appliances being available, the first thing I'm doing is opening that sucker up, and taking a pair of wire cutters to it!

  2. I'm far from a luddite or anti-techie. I have a bachelors in computer science and a MBA in computer information systems. I worked my whole life in this field (i'm 71). I think there are some advantages to the internet and most certainly to computers. But... the more complexity you introduce into something the more likely it is to fail. My new gas range will not work without AC. My coffee maker has a clock and a computer chip in it, ditto for my microwave. God knows what's in my TV and cable box and my cell phone is beginning to scare me. My car can't be stolen but on the other hand if I lose my special key with a computer chip in it then it is a 3500 lb paper weight. My advice to someone with a business would be to disconnect the internet and ban the use of email for business purposes. Everything can be and is hacked. When my children were growing upI always told them to act as though their grandmother was watching and listening to them. My advice to anyone using the internet is to assume you are being watched and hacked. Are you? Odds are you are not but as soon as you get into something someone else wants to know about you will be. If the Mafia had applied my advice to telephones they would still be around. Simplify! Avoid interconnections dependencies and complications.

  3. http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=229247



    Denninger has these three interesting posts about spy programs Apple has in their gear.

    IOT? Nope, not for Ich Bin

  4. Back in the day, when I worked for (agency redacted), we stumbled across some "interior GPS technology" that some on staph thought interesting.

    When one is booked into jail one receives an industrial-strength wire reinforced version of a hospital ID bracelet. Company X enhanced the bracelets by adding a transponder. The idea was to equip the facility with networked ceiling mounted transponder interrogators so Bad Bart could be sent from cell to infirmary by his own self and not require a Corrections Officer escort, thereby saving much many money. After the CO entered origin and destination, the software would track BB's progress and alert if path deviation or delay was incurred. Sounds good on paper, but there are some holes in both the technology and the process.

    During the sales pitch it was mentioned that the system had been sold to several "extended retirement facilities" (read: geezer farms) to monitor the well being of the inmates, I mean "residents." The software had been modified to allow periodic interrogation of the transponder to confirm geo position, an extra cost option that was also availble to us. I pointed out we usually use things like steel doors and bars for that, all of which function quite well during power outages and are harder to defeat than software or a wi-fi network (wi-fi then being in its infancy).

    Again, looks good on paper. Since the sensor range was a couple of yards, there was no way to distinguish between Grandma on the couch watching TV, or on the couch asleep or on the couch deceased.

    The sales rep made a note and mentioned they would look into adding some sort of body temp or pulse monitoring capability to the transponder.

    I heard some jails in CA had bought the system, how well it worked for them I have no idea. I also have no idea if it ever took hold on geezer farms.


    (stealing) borrowing this!


  6. Nice thoughts greybeard. As working in IoT startup, we offer a solution for optimizing energy usage in enterprises, shops, and homes by controlling AC and lighting systems. Not totally new concept but this time it is Internet-enabled and works with the trendy smart phones/tablets. Seems like there is consumer demand for this type of applications like monitoring, security, and energy control. As for fridge talking to washing machine, intrusive monitoring of people, etc, I fully agree that the less the better.