Will The Shift Towards An Internet Of Things Approach By Big Tech Create A Modern Utopia Or Dystopia?

Shelves that interact with consumer grocery shopping lists, lighting up when a shopper is in proximity – check, using IoT devices as a first line of defense against hackers – check. But what about getting user opt-in consent before turning a brisk walk into a sprint?
4 min read
Internet Of Things IOT and cybersecurity and user privacy

In this article we will discuss:

Betting our future on collaborative Internet of Thing networks

The Internet of Things (IoT), refers to the practice of creating an ecosystem of objects that can communicate via a network, exchanging data, information, and other signals. Having large networks of interconnected devices has huge potential for societies in terms of the service industry, digital retail, cybersecurity, and others.

In this context, Apple, and Amazon have identified the unrealized potential of this, and are in the process of rolling out their own networks which will enable proprietary devices to communicate:

Apple Airtags: Utilizes Apple’s network of 1 billion devices in order to enable Bluetooth-based communication. This ecosystem enables tags to be placed on everyday devices like earbuds, which can then be tracked using other nearby devices.

Amazon Sidewalk: Allows all company devices to be connected, creating a joint network for Echos, Ring Video Doorbells, and Tile Trackers enabling service access even when out of range. This creates entire ‘neighborhoods of connectivity’ ensuring smooth service no matter your geolocation.

How will these types of IoT networks shape our future?

The promise of an interconnected world

Here are some ways in which IoT is currently, and will continue to shape businesses, and consumer experiences:

Multi-dimensional retail experiences

Market trends are increasingly moving towards data-driven Internet of Things (IoT) enabled shopping experiences. In fact, according to a PWC survey retailers have one of the highest IoT integration rates (58%) when compared with the median for other sectors (48%).

Digital retailers have access to a plethora of consumer data, a fact that has left brick, and mortar-based businesses with a large gap to fill. One solution which may enjoy widespread adoption includes radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors. Since most people are wary of being monitored, this technology tracks products, not individuals. These ‘tags’ are installed on shelves in stores, as is the case with Amazon’s new locations that automatically add/remove items from your cart as you take them off shelves, or return them.

Another example of this is Krogers who have developed interactive shelves that interface with shopper grocery lists, lighting up when a shopper is in proximity of one of their desired items.

Additionally, many in-store buyers surf the web while shopping in order to perform price comparisons, and look for discounts as well as getting additional information or to make an online purchase if lines get out of hand. Retail chains like Target, are experimenting with all kinds of solutions such as WIFI-traffic monitors, providing information on shopper movement.

These types of initiatives can enable stores who utilize this technology correctly to:

  • Provide in detail product information when necessary
  • Offer discounts in an effort to compete with real-time pricing wars
  • Create ad-hoc checkouts for cashier bottleneck situations

Physical-digital cybersecurity synergy

As we have borne witness to of late with the Colonial cyberattack, for example, the risks for physical infrastructure hooked up to digital operating systems is on the rise. It is for this reason that companies are, and will continue to be looking towards Internet of Trusted Things (IoTT) for better ways to interface digital-physical security efforts.

From one standpoint, introducing IoT into your company can actually exponentially increase vulnerability as more devices are now online increasing the number of potentially vulnerable touchpoints with malware, and hackers.

IOT Analytics and Six principles to IOT cyber security across stack

Image source: iotforall

But instead of looking at these as points of vulnerability, red teams can utilize this new physical infrastructure to:

  • Perform firewall testing
  • Simulate third-party attacks outside of firewalls
  • Use IoT devices as a first line of defense, and ‘Trojans’ or decoys to mislead hackers

Seems interesting – ‘What are the risks involved?’

So far we have been ‘utopia-focused’ meaning we have only looked at the benefits. The dystopian version of an IoT future does not have to do with machines taking over the world but rather with large tech companies who automatically opt users into networks. The umbrella motives are noble – creating global device networks which allow smart objects to interact with one-another, making consumers’ lives easier.

The question is – Should consumers maintain control over their in-store internet surfing habits? Should my speaker device be automatically opted-in as a first line of defense as part of a company’s multi-layered IoTT cybersecurity plan?

The bottom line

Companies like Apple, and Amazon are jumping on the IoT bandwagon with both hands, and this approach seems to offer a roadmap into a very promising interconnected future. But before we all jump on board I just want you to ask yourself if consumer consent or opt-in consent should be a crucial first step?

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