Tag Archives: internet of things

You, yes YOU, should be the most important thing in the Internet of Things

The second part of the extensive interview with our founder and chairman Julian Ranger has been published, focusing on why the IoT needs an Internet of Me to make it real and fix obvious and glaring privacy and security issues.

It’s a cracking read, and covers a lot of ground including the war on privacy, why data collection needs to move from behind us to in front of us, and why the way apps and devices handle data needs to undergo a fundmental shift.

I can’t recommend it highly enough if you have any interest at all in the field of personal data privacy and the personal data economy (which we all, of course, should have) – so here are a couple of choice quotes to whet your appetite:

“The Internet of Things at the moment is being built on data that is collected behind us. It needs to move in front of us. We need a path towards that, from the dark side to the light side. The IoT can’t work behind us, which is the way it’s been built today. That’s just loading more rubbish on a rubbish framework. There needs to be a new framework.”

“A large part of the cost of IoT is that all this data is being racked up into offline storage that companies are having to do. It is uneconomic to keep supporting old stuff. But what would happen if the data came to me first — not necessarily just into digi.me but wherever I choose to keep it — and I then decided where it went? If a business no longer wants to support it I can still keep this piece of kit and it keeps talking to my system for ever if I want, but more importantly I get to control where the data goes.”

Tempted? Excellent – it’s well worth your time.

And if you missed the first interview, which took place over on the Internet of Me forum which we sponsor and support, you can find that here.

The Internet of Things’ ‘dirty little secret’ and your personal data

The Internet of Things (IoT) has always been billed as building a more connected world – but what if it’s just a massive personal data harvesting and monetising exercise?

That’s the gist of a slew of articles recently, following Google’s Nest’s decision to shutter the Resolv smart home hub company it bought in 2014, abruptly cutting off customers and their apps.

At one level, of course, this simply undermines one of the key IoT elements that has been overlooked in the rush to have a house that responds to your needs without even asking – that without individual data ownership, it can all be taken away in an instant. Not so convenient and connected then, is it?

But, that (important) point aside, all these devices work on data. Data about you, data about your home, data about what you do in your home.Huge, huge amounts of data.

Which means, as this Medium post points out: “The opportunities are delicious for bloated internet companies: now a software company could know how warm your home is, what times of day are noisy, whether you have a pet, when you turn on your lights or if you listen to music while having sex.

“Smart devices are sold as a way to improve your life — and in many ways, they do to an extent — but it also means those gadgets are incredible troves of data that could eventually turn into Software-as-a-Service money makers.”

This point is also made in this CIO article interview on Nest’s woes, which states: “The primary issue facing the industry today is not technology, it’s the business models that companies such as Nest use in attempts to claim complete control over their users’ data… Consumers don’t want just one connected smart device and consumers are never going to buy all of their smart devices from the same supplier…The problem is that everybody wants to own the consumer, they want to own the relationship and they want all the data.”

This goes hand-in-hand with another  important point: “The problem with the Internet of Things is that the hardware is only one aspect. The makers need to keep servers running to support them, keep APIs up to date, keep security up to date and, well, pay employees.”

Over time, this all adds up – and it eventually adds up to more than you paid for the device, particularly as many of the first connected devices like thermostats and fridges are long-lasting by design, and so will be in your house for years or even decades.

So you then become a loss-making client – and an obvious way to recoup that loss will be to sell on the data that is being created day in, day out, by you just living in your home, then fed back to the company you bought from.

There’s the option to charge a monthly fee, too, of course or cut you off – but based on current user behaviour around social media platforms, for example, giving up user data is often seen as an acceptable compromise for a good, free service.

And that’s the frightening thing. We should prioritise our data, the information that makes up the big picture and the detail of all our lives, above so much else, but the IoT is largely founded on companies banking we won’t.

That’s why it has a place in this world, but the key tech revolution needs to be to an Internet of Me – the re-centering of data around the individual, for them to do what they want with it and not for companies to sell on, and on, and on as a commodity.

We’re doing all we can to make that happen – spread the word and join us!

 

Could the Internet of Things be used to spy on you?

The Internet of Things functioning primarily as a mass surveillance tool rather than a  world where more things connect to the internet and each other is certainly the view of James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence.

Submitting evidence to the US Senate as part of a regular assessment of current threats faced, he acknowledged the distinct possibility that spies could one day tap into the army of connected devices most of us are expected to acquire as part of the Internet of Things growth, and use it to increase their population surveillance activities.

According to The Guardian, he said: “In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.”

Scary stuff, right? And not necessarily what you’re thinking of or expecting when you buy that cool thermostat that you can control from your phone, or that upcoming fridge that tells you when you’re running out of something.

His appearance comes in the same week that an influential committee of UK MPs objected to the Government’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, saying that it lacks clarity in its privacy protections, and had been pushed forward too quickly for sufficient time and preparation to be spent on it.

These two different stories have one common theme – overreach. And it’s clearly still a huge problem.

We are still often, as a society, locked into thinking that something has to be inherently good or bad, it can’t sit on a fence, when actually few things are that clear-cut.

And nowhere is this truer than in the privacy and data debate. Is it good that authorities have the power to track would-be terrorists and hopefully prevent attacks? Of course, and very few would deny that – but equally that doesn’t mean in any way that we should all give up privacy protections as a result.

One does not absolutely require the other, but rights over the personal data that each and every one of us produce are too easily subsumed in this way if we say nothing.

And so too with the Internet of Things. Clearly some great and useful inventions have, and will, continue to hit the market. Innovation is great and a more connected life makes so many things easier. But again, as has already been shown through hacked baby monitors, for example, the rush to produce and buy cool new stuff should not see a trampling of privacy and security values – by either producers or consumers.

Because there will always be someone or something looking to take advantage of these back doors, and once data is exposed, it’s difficult to have any control over where it goes or what it is used for.

Our personal data is the essence and sum of us online, and we need to value it ourselves before we can expect others to do that for us. So that means taking control of it, being responsible for it, and fighting for its right to be important.

digi.me gives back control over this data to each user, and of course you should all be using it (download it for free here!), but there’s a wider need to be aware of, and take steps to protect, our data in any way we can. Because if we don’t value it, we’re sending out a very bad message to other people looking to use and abuse it too – go right ahead, no-one will stop you.

And nobody wants that.

What is the Internet of Things?

As the latest estimates claim the number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) will jump from 15 billion now to 50 billion in 2020, we look at what a connected world actually means.

What is the IoT? Well, at its most basic level, it is a network of devices fitted with data-capturing sensors that can connect to the internet, talking wirelessly to each other, applications – and indeed us. And these devices? They’re things in your home, things you wear, wearables such as Fitbit and the car you drive.

The phrase IoT has been in circulation for nearly a decade in technology circles, but only now with smart, connected devices such as thermostats and refrigerators, as well as driverless cars, becoming a reality is it something that is becoming relevant to the majority of the population.

What would a truly connected world look like? More straightforward is one answer, as all these intelligent little machines that between them know so much about us and our lives start to co-ordinate.

In classic examples, your alarm clock wakes you up and then tells your coffee machine to start boiling ready for a morning cuppa, while on the drive to work your car knows the quickest route for where and when you need to be, and can even text whoever you’re meeting if you’re running late.

Lots of smart devices, collecting and streaming huge amounts of user data and providing real-time information on, well, just about anything. Performing nominated tasks on demand and combining to make life as frictionless as possible. After all, how much easier would life be if your house’s heating could tell it was about to break and was able to summon an engineer itself before it actually did so?

And these devices could bring real benefits, not least cost as well as convenience, to all our lives. The heating that knows to turn itself off or down on a sunny day will save individual users money, as potentially could smart cars that send data about how they are being driven to insurance companies to feed into premiums.

The decreasing cost of computer power means there is no cost barrier to entry for putting sensors that can generate data in the most mundane items, and there is clearly no shortage of opportunities for smart machines that can do something in addition to their primary, practical purpose.

With so much data zipping around, questions about privacy and security are at the forefront of concerns and there are clearly many debates to be had around the IoT, its limitations and indeed its strengths.

But one thing is not in doubt – a huge amount of data is going to be generated, and how that is analysed and interpreted is going to be key to how successful the IoT is, for individuals and businesses alike.

Of course, at digi.me, we believe in returning the power of data to the owner, for them to use and permission as they wish, in both their personal and public lives.

The Internet of Things, and its natural successor the Internet of Me, where the individual is at the centre of their connected life, is a natural fit for us, as control returns to the user. Businesses need accurate rich data, which an individual is best placed to provide – but only if they want to and only if it is worth their while.

Leveraging the IoT is the dream for many companies, but here at digi.me we’re already got a headstart – and you can  try it out for yourself with a free download of our amazing app.

The Budget 2015 – How does it affect our digital landscape?

The latest UK budget announcement sets the scene for the startup landscape in 2015 and beyond.  There were some interesting trends in this years budget that will affect startups and freelancers along with some larger impact projects that will speed up innovation in parts of the UK. Take a look at a few of the trends that we thought were of particular interest.

The Death of the Tax Return

A major step for freelancers and the self-employed, Osborne confirmed rumours that there would be an end to the annual tax return. Claiming “people shouldn’t be working for the taxman”, annual tax returns will be abolished by 2020 with information HMRC needs automatically uploaded into new digital tax accounts. The chancellor said that this will enable businesses to feel they are paying a “simple single business tax” – “tax shouldn’t be taxing”.

Basically all your tax records will become digital and managed through the web. The plan is to save time doing taxing tax returns each year. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the long run. s

National Insurance Cuts for Self Employed

Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed will be abolished in the next government. Further consultations on this are to be announced.

This combined with the death of the tax return suggests that the UK government is pushing towards more self-employment within the UK as an employment trend. This means for startups there is likely to be less red tape for freelancers and more flexibility and availability of skilled people within the UK as more people go freelance.

Investment in the Internet of Things

Science and innovation will receive a major cash injection with up to £140m on infrastructure and cities of the future, and £40m in research into what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Osborne explained that IoT, featured in our Tech Trends of 2014, is connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

This technology trend has seen increasing growth globally and is becoming the buzz phrase for 2015.  With it comes new uses for technology and more personal data becoming available for multiple purposes. Consider how you want your personal and business data used and managed. (By you or by the companies who create the devices)

Supporting the Sharing Economy

Measures to support the sharing economy include the launch of two pilot ‘Sharing Cities’ in Leeds City Region and Greater Manchester in 2015-16.  The two cities, which will share £700,000 of public money between them, will be encouraged to trial local sharing initiatives in the areas of shared transport, shared public space, and health and social care.

The government also said it plans to introduce legislation that will make it easier for individuals to sub-let a room and for non-residential properties to rent out their existing parking spaces.

This trend opens up opportunities for start ups in the private room rental space, transport sharing and such like.  We may see more innovation in this space and legislation may have to continue to evolve to match the changing ways in which we work, live and travel together. 

What did you find interesting in the budget and how will it affect you or your company?  What trends have you noticed and how do you think they will affect you and your personal data?