Internet of Things

Last year, in an editorial titled “Digital IDs in the New Year”, we discussed the Government’s initiative to issue digital IDs in line with the world’s inexorable movement from analog communication to digital. We noted, “the ID cards will have a secure chip, which can store data including blood type, date of birth, drivers’ licence and taxpayer’s identification number.” But these IDs would only be the initial step in plugging us into “the Internet of Things”. And no, this is not science fiction. With the evolution of the fifth-generation (5G) wireless network and the ongoing work on 6G, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a revolutionary technique that enables a diverse number of features and applications.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, evolved from the convergence of development in a host of hardware and software in the communications sector: wireless technologies, microelectromechanical systems microservices and the internet. One critical outcome from this confluence has helped to remove the barriers between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). This outcome facilitated unstructured machine-generated data to be analyzed for insights to drive improvements.
In layman’s terms, the IoT would potentially be connecting all living and non-living things via the internet; with the information gleaned or generated being used in unimaginable ways. Since it is “a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction”, the entire earth can be in communication. In the IoT, a “thing” can be a vehicle or any other device that has those built-in sensors that already inform us when one or more devices are malfunctioning. It can be a person’s pacemaker or cows with biochip transponders and digital IDs.
The IoT is a new paradigm that has changed the traditional way of living into a high-tech lifestyle. Smart city, smart homes, pollution control, energy saving, smart transportation, smart industries, healthcare, environmental, commercial, industrial, infrastructural applications are such transformations due to IoT. Smart homes are already being built that are equipped with smart thermostats, smart appliances and connected heating, lighting and electronic devices can be controlled remotely via computers and smartphones. Such buildings can, for instance, reduce energy costs using sensors that detect how many occupants are in a room. The temperature can be adjusted automatically — for example, turning the air conditioner on if sensors detect a conference room is full, or turning the heat down if everyone in the office has gone home.
Even complete smart cities can be created, and from what we have heard, Silica City on the Linden Highway will be built along these lines. In a smart city, IoT sensors and deployments such as smart streetlights and smart meters can help alleviate traffic jams, conserve energy, monitor and address environmental concerns, and improve sanitation. In healthcare, IoT offers many benefits, including the ability to monitor patients more closely using an analysis of the data that’s generated. Hospitals often use IoT systems to complete tasks such as inventory management for both pharmaceuticals and medical instruments. Increasingly, organizations in a variety of industries are using IoT to operate more efficiently, better understand customers to deliver enhanced customer service, improve decision-making, and increase the value of the business.
Security of data would clearly be a major issue, since the IoT connects billions of devices to the internet and involves the use of billions of data points, creating an exponentially expanded attack surface. Because IoT devices are closely connected, hackers can exploit a single vulnerability to manipulate all the data, rendering it unusable. Additionally, connected devices often ask users to input their personal information, including names, ages, addresses, phone numbers, and even social media accounts — invaluable information to hackers.
Beyond leaking personal data, IoT can pose risks to critical infrastructure, including electricity, transportation and financial services. To prevent security attacks, several security mechanisms are involved in IoT applications, including authentication, encryption, blockchain, and trust management. Welcome to the brave new world of IoT.