Thursday, 29th September 2011
How could the following headline not catch my eye? "What if your new jeans start tweeting your location as you cross London Bridge?" It did in fact do this today and upon reading the BBC's "Smart Jeans: A cause for concern" I became a little more educated on the topic of Internet of Things (IoT), the various applications and the ongoing privacy concerns.
According to the McKinsey Quarterly back in March 2010, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a term given to the world of sensors being embedded in everyday objects and their being given the ability to communicate data via networks to computers. These information networks can result in new business models and ways of doing business but also provide a whole lot of information on people, their whereabouts, their habits and more.
As McKinsey cites, traditionally, information tends to travel along predicable routes – from data in company databases to reports to management or from external secondary sources to reports to management. The creation of sensors and actuators embedded in such everyday things as transportation infrastructure to medical devices, is changing that predictability and flow.
Objects can be linked via wireless networks with the resulting data being analysed by computers and then actions are taken based on the data being received. Examples can include anything from Smart Buildings and intelligent cars to the RFID tags in items of clothing or pet collars.
An obvious concern here is that of privacy. If sensors can be embedded into small items and tracked, it can lead to possible stalking, identify theft and numerous other big brother concerns.
More recognisable examples of IoT can be found in the Top 10 Internet of Things: Developments of 2010 including Nike + shoes and IBM's Smarter Plant.
Back to the Smart Jeans! How can that happen? Well, what if the RFID tag that is in many items of clothing for tracking during manufacturing, inventory and retail storage is not removed upon purchase. It's certainly possible that one's location could be tracked. The BBC Smart Jean story provides numerous other examples of how IoT could be applied in every life. Although the potential advantages are many - saving energy and monitoring for emergency situations - privacy concerns will prevail. It's up to industry to create innovative technologies where privacy concerns are taken into account. Easier said than done once one starts on a slippery slope.
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