The Internet of Things is not new or revolutionary – it’s the evolution of compute and it’s all about you

October 21, 2016 • Jim Hunter

Learning from the past, taking security seriously and protecting the consumer must be at the heart of developing propositions for the Internet of Things (IoT) because it’s all about personal data.

The real opportunity in the Internet is in connecting it with people; being able to put individual pieces of data about people’s lives into context to make it meaningful. While pieces of data in isolation might be harmless, once they’re put together and a picture is formed, the information gained could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.

If you look at a picture, it is made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels. Look at one pixel in isolation and you can’t identify what it’s for – it could be of anything from anywhere and it’s the same with data. A single snapshot of data is meaningless without context, but align a ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ or ‘when’ and the picture starts to build. As you begin to gather more pixels or data you can see how individual pieces fit together, then gradually you build a story and gain insight. You have information.

The IoT – or the IoY (Internet of You) – is about defining what those individual pixels are, which can build the stories that make sense. It’s then finding the part of the picture that gives the insight and information needed to provide a tailored personal service or solution. The caution, however, is around putting the right security measures in place to ensure the wrong people cannot use the information.

As co-chair of the IoT Consortium’s Privacy Security Committee, I am working to establish a minimum bar for understanding the importance of privacy and security when developing IoT products. We want to help companies do the right thing for the consumer and ensure there’s protection in place when things go wrong. Nothing should be available online without security measures in place. Too often for developers, security is sprinkled on top rather than baked in and that just isn’t good enough when you’re dealing with personal data.

IoT is not a revolution, rather an evolution of compute and about exploring the opportunities that exist in the software we develop – how we make it personal.

The term ‘IoT’ is a misnomer. The Internet was always about things connecting, so we’re not reinventing the wheel, but simply refining it for purpose and for individual users. Anyone developing new ideas in this sector would do well to research what successes have already been achieved and build on them – ensuring right from the start that security and the handling of consumer data is given the highest priority.