Internet has changed lot of things. For some, internet was great, and for some, it meant going bankrupt. IoT is becoming a thing on the internet. It is more of an ecosystem where Things, Internet, Cloud and Big Data play their own roles. While it is great for many, there is the need for proper handling and managing of the technology and the services it bring, as well as keeping an eye on undesirable effects it can have.
TechTogetherLK is a meetup organised by RUC ICT Advisory and Management Committee. It is planning to discuss different topics in IT/ICT field over time. And we had the first event on last Friday on Internet of Things. As it is a topic that is doing its rounds.
Event consisted of two talks. One by Mr Rajat Ganguli from Cisco Systems, and the other by Dr Chamath Kappettiyagama from UCSC.
Mr Rajat discussed how internet evolved and how it was bad for some and great for some. And how IoT, where machines talk to machines, for our benifit, can be good for us or not. Even though an IoT system seem like an animal that can live on its own, there are people, processes, data and things involved and all the above must contribute properly for it to work. For example, an app that has a panic button for girls in India to press when they are in trouble would not mean much, if the police is not capable of taking action to prevent a crime instead of reacting to a crime.
Mr Rajat is the head of sales for Cisco in this region. But his talk was no sales pitch, and it was very interesting to listen. However he did mention why Cisco is excited about IoT, which they call IoE (Internet of Everything). Based on current statistics there will be 50 billion internet connected things in the world. And somebody need to provide connectivity. There is a lot up for grabbing for Telcos and network hardware companies. But it is also a challenge to provide bandwidth and security. Unlike internet that is mostly handling commercial/entertainment data, IoT once in its full swing, will have a lot to do with basic human needs. Such as Transport, Healthcare, food and water management.
Dr Chamath discussed more on Privacy and Security concerns in IoT. Not necessarily on network based spying that NSA made a name for. But on spying that can happen everywhere and anywhere. A device used for one task, can easily be used intentionally or unintentionally for spying by the same party that installed the device or someone else. One good example is, Samsung smart TVs with voice recognition sending a live audio feed of your living room to a server in Korea. Technically it can be tapped at any point between your home and their server.
Dr Chamath shared few research findings that was fascinating and scary at the same time. You can use wireless signals to monitor whats going on inside your house from a distance. Even though walls. You don’t need the WiFi password, you don’t need to connect to the network. You just need to monitor, tiny variations of the signal. WiFi signal has a wavelength which is affected by human body. Imagine the field of WiFi signal as a bowl of water. We are like fish in that bowl. You can detect position and movement of fish, if you carefully study tiny ripples of water in the bowl. This become an issues with IoT. Because pretty much every IoT gadget is WiFi enabled. And that’s the most effective way to connect a device when you have fifty billion of them. And with fifty billion devices online by 2020, there will be no place to hide.
Interesting part is, you don’t need specialized hardware for this. All you need is a WiFi signal source. Software part can be placed inside any WiFi enabled smartphone, computer or most of the routers.This leads to interesting applications such as controlling house hold equipment with gestures, by using only a WiFi router. Scanning buildings for people during rescue operations. This is also a cheap way to spy.
In overall, it was a very informative gathering with sessions covering both academic and applied side of the topic. Both sessions was made to fit general techie and non techie audience. General message from both talks was that IoT is here to stay, with great potential. But proceed with caution.