Getting smarter and smarter

The Internet of Things. It’s a phrase that’s being bandied about more and more these days. You might have noticed the hype around it. Or not. Either way, it’s something worth finding out a little more about. And guess who’s going to help you do just that? Why, us, of course. (Who else?)

The Internet of What, exactly?

The internet, broadly speaking, comes down to communication between people. But the Internet of Things? That’s about communication between machines.

Have you heard someone talking about, watched a programme that discusses or read an article on ‘smart’ appliances? The watch that can tell you how many calories you’ve burnt, and refrigerators that email you what you need to pick up from the supermarket on your way home from work this evening. Well, that’s the Internet of Things (or at least it’s two examples of it).

But once you start thinking about it, you’ll realise it’s more than just machines talking to each other. It’s also about that information being analysed, and then relayed to you. And what analyses that information? Applications in the cloud, mainly. So, at its core, the Internet of Things is about the machines and in-built sensors that collect information, and the cloud-based applications that analyse that information, turning it into something meaningful to then be transmitted to you via the internet.

The upside

Safety

One way in which the technology associated with the Internet of Things can and has been used is to improve safety. We’ve already mentioned the in-built sensors that gather information. One intended use of these sensors is in cars. The sensor will detect, for example, when and how much ice there is on the road. That information will then be transmitted to your car through the internet, resulting your car telling you to slow down. And if you don’t? Well, your car will slow down for you. Rather impressive, isn’t it?

A more streamlined lifestyle

Less time spent on mundane tasks means more time available to do those things you actually want, rather than need, to do. You’ll be able to (further) customise appliances and devices to suit your needs, and get them to do more for you.

Most smart appliances will have an associated app that you can download onto your phone. So, in the not too distant future, you’ll be able to control many of the devices and systems in your home from your smart phone (irrespective of where you are, assuming you have sufficient connectivity).

Efficiency

Smart energy grids are currently being created – these are electrical grids designed to deal with and manage the technology associated with them. They’ll transmit electricity more efficiently, as well as handle power cuts more effectively – meaning it’ll take less time to get everything back up and running.

Smart grids will also reduce costs for utility companies (for example, fewer people will be required to check meters) which could result in lower energy costs for consumers. Those are only some of the benefits- not bad, eh?

Downsides?

Security

Cyber security, particularly when it’s breached, is something that many of us worry about. And rightly so; take the recent TalkTalk cyber-attack, for instance. Some are worried that an increase in connected devices will place more pressure on the current ‘wireless infrastructure’ than it can handle – which means that it’ll need to be modified.

Oh, and while we’re talking about modification, it may also be that cellular data networks will need to be reformed, extended and strengthened in order for the Internet of Things to achieve the scale of use its proponents desire. This is because when talking about the benefits of the Internet of Things, a certain level of connectivity is assumed.

Privacy

One consequence of a rise in the use of smart appliances is that more and more of our behaviour will be recorded and stored. At which point, we have to ask, “Who’ll be able to access this data?”

As the Internet of Things becomes more prevalent (it’s estimated that around 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020), existing legislation might need to be amended – we could even see new legislation being enacted. The minimum level of protection that must be provided with enabled devices should be clearly set out. And it should also be made clear what data can and, perhaps more importantly, can’t be stored.

Over-reliance?

This sort of discussion inevitably raises the issue of our reliance on technology, and when that reliance becomes over-reliance. There isn’t a clear line between the two and, as ever, it will likely come down to context. However, we here at Simplify the Law are inclined to favour technology that makes your life, dare we say it… simpler. And if you’re also a fan of that, then you might like…

Simplify the Law

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