Welcome to the Internet of Things. You may soon need to reboot your toaster.
We enter the era of Internet of Things. Everyday objects collect and exchange data and commands. I have been exploring IoT by including wireless connectivity into making projects. For example, remote control antennas and test equipment. These “things” now show up on my network and I can communicate with them. A friend of mine has a remote control greenhouse. He monitors temperature and humidity using sensors he built.
But what happens when the Internet of Things becomes ubiquitous? We have already reached the stage where almost all home appliances contain an embedded computer of some sort. I just finished counting things in my home with embedded computers or micro controllers. These includes my home entertainment equipment, and appliances like my oven, washer, dryer, and thermostats. My car has a few dozen. And all of my power utilities do wireless monitoring of my home.
Up until now, most consumer devices with embedded computers have not been connected to the internet. That is changing. For example, my printers are now wireless. This makes them easy to use. But I have no idea whether or not these wireless printers are sending data externally over the Internet. (You can block this if you set up your router properly, but most people don’t.) And when I connect my iPad to my iGrill for monitoring my steaks on the BBQ, it is probably sending data to someone unknown.
The cost of adding wireless to a home appliance is around a dollar. Pretty soon, most of your appliances will be wireless enabled. Then what?
How will Internet of Things connect to your networks?
For now, let’s put aside questions about privacy, choice and security. More on these another time. As consumer products become wireless enabled, how will they be connecting? Typically, your IoT toaster will seek two forms of connectivity. First, it will try to get on your WiFi network in the house. Second, it will try to link to your smart phone, probably using Bluetooth. Manufacturers will try to make these connections easy. They will give you apps for your phone, and enable devices with WPS (Wireless Protected Setup) for easy connection to your LAN.
Some industry groups are developing standards to enable IoT devices to bypass you completely, and just link automatically to other devices that you have already connected to you network.
For consumers, IoT offers convenience. For many manufacturers and geeks, IoT offers a huge data grab. Who owns the data about me, anyway?
If you want some food for thought, here’s an article to read about IoT.