The Internet Of Things (IoT)

Home Care / Medical – Will IoT bring us more benefits as the population ages? In terms of being able to monitor people remotely (which cannot be done unless you have 24/7 round the clock care) then maybe the IoT brings us some clear benefits. People will be able to remain in their homes and be cared for less intrusively and only when required. Bio metric devices perhaps coupled to a phone via an app could warn when people are at risk, as blood sugar declines perhaps. Certainly with the advent of phone fitness apps we are now well placed to have phones (or devices linked to phones) to notify us when the wearer is up and about. Maybe inactivity would spark an alert and relatives / carers would then know there is a problem. For reliance though there would almost certainly need to be some form of implanted device so the wearer would not have to remember to put it on, turn it on etc. I’m sure we all know of relatives with panic buttons but rarely have them to hand, a bit like not wearing your car seat belt when you’re only going down the road.

How any of you are Fitbit wearers? I resisted the wearable tech thinking that it was something I couldn’t get into being involved with tech all day, every day. Then I upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy S6 and hadn’t realised that I had turned on S Health permanently. I wonder how many of my steps each day really counts as valuable exercise though. Will it be long before all of this is implanted in some way? Who would be first to sign up? I can see competitive athletes wanting to gain an edge taking something like this up. Competitive cycling in recent years has seen more and more bio metric data being made available and that may be the only way to convince some exactly what the athletes are not doing any more.

Would you want to have something which could forewarn you of an oncoming illness before it happened? That white cell count looks odd today…

So will this bring security issues with it? Almost certainly. Suppose that an insurance company could gain access to this data and then decide that as you get older they really don’t want you as a customer any longer. You’re no longer an asset providing paid up premiums, you’re a liability. I was appalled to hear just this week how insurance companies are reassessing peoples insurance claims in the wake of floods to see who they may not need to pay out on. Seems odd that an industry is allowed to accept premiums and less of the risk even though the premiums pay for it.

I’m fairly sure that as I hit old age we’ll be much closer to home based robot assistance. I like the idea that a robot or other monitoring device can assess dangers and take action if necessary so long as I can tell it to stop nagging me about the amount of wine I drink.

Security – I read something a few weeks ago about an IoT kettle. Why would you need that? Well if you’re nearing home, why not have the kettle start the boiling process ready for you when you get into the house? I can see the excuses now. “Sorry I’m late in today but the kettle stopped responding to my phone and then I had to wait an extra 2 minutes as i remembered how to work it. That made me miss the train…”. What about if someone hacks your home and gets access to your kettle thermostats and disables them?

Bank and credit card activity already tracks where you go, not to mention the mobile phone of course. There’s no doubt that we are moving further toward a cashless society. Someone somewhere could pin point us all and wearable tech will increase all of that. Does it matter though? If you have nothing to hide then the tracks that you leave might just as easily prove your innocence of a crime – possibly if it is only implanted or there are more security cameras who can place you accurately.

I heard of a company adding IoT devices into Supermarkets. It started out as a way of tracking peoples movements and determining how they move through the store. The data can be used to turn relatively ‘dead spots’ into a place where there is more focus so people are more immersed into what the supermarket has to offer. A by-product of all this was a big saving in energy costs. As shops move toward being open longer and longer they have increased lighting bills. Clever buildings which can dim or turn off lighting altogether now have a way to reduce running costs. Maybe street lighting could go the same way with some clever monitoring of approaching traffic / pedestrians.

Driver less vehicles are clearly coming with trials to start with trucks in the UK in the not too distant future. Google have been pioneering this for some time now. However I’ve heard of people fooling a certain German manufacturers vehicle into unlocking themselves and allowing people access to the central console, presumably giving them a chance to program a blank key. How long before we have cars which can be overridden by the authorities to prevent criminals from escaping the police in a dangerous chase? Would that concern you? What if someone else finds a way to hack a car on the motorway and cause an accident? Would the advantages of these cars outweigh the disadvantages? Trials are taking place in Sweden with driver less cars. It is somewhat limited though as the cars need to be able to see the white lines of the road to drive safely. Hmm, hope there isn’t snow forecast on the days when trials are running… or maybe I do as that can only lead to improvements.

I can see the time where pubs will offer driver less cars as an option to get you to the bar / restaurant and get you home once the wearable health monitor starts bleeping at you to stop drinking before your liver collapses into a pile of mush. I like the idea of a beer bus, maybe a 15 or 20 seater that picks you up from your home along with your beer buddies and returns you safely at chucking out / up time. The house might even welcome you home by opening the door and telling you to drink a pint of water and go straight to bed whilst playing soft soothing music.

What Scares You About IoT? – If all of this data is being stored somewhere, who has access to it? Do we just accept that there will be a vast data store of what we do and no-one checking it. There are bound to be unintended consequences as the data is hacked or misused. I heard a great story involving a large UK bank. A BBC broadcaster managed to convince a mobile phone provider (that of her radio programme producer) that all calls should be diverted to another mobile as she was having problems. This was duly set up. She then rang the Bank of her programme producer, claimed she was the producer and that she couldn’t access her online account. The Bank foolishly accepted she was who she said she was and issued log on password reset instructions to her producers mobile. This was duly diverted to the other mobile and she was then able to access the bank account and take money. As the security was all reset she was then in complete control of the account and the producer had no way to block access. This seems like such a simple trick and the Bank have now reviewed their security measures.

All of these things are enablers (much like Facebook, Linked In etc) and it depends what you / we; do with them.

Interconnected Cities – I think we all thought that this topic would be the most time consuming of the evening but it was quite the opposite. Possibly too broad a topic and worthy of a theme for a future Tech Tuesday.

As areas of the country become more and more crowded either through population change or people moving to cities to work it seems that we would all benefit from any transportation easing. Driver less cars will only work in certain areas. They won’t be able to cope with rural roads or complex manoeuvres, at least not in the short term. Imagine being able to hook up to a motorway road chain where you sit virtually bumper to bumper as the cars move in a long condensed chain until your motorway exit approaches. This would ease movement in the motorway network but you’d better be awake when you have to leave the M5 or its Cornwall for you…

Wouldn’t it be great if cars could warn of potential dangers ahead? A sudden decrease in traffic flow could be echoed back down the motorway so drivers could be warned of slow moving or stationary traffic ahead. All those ugly motorways signs can then be stripped down and sent for scrap or resale on a future edition of Bargain Hunt.

Pot holes should not be a problem which can be overlooked. Cars would be able to spot this and report it as the car senses a problem. Aggregating software would screen out false positives and allow councils to issue a crew to fill the holes more rapidly.

Interconnected Devices – How many times have you gone away on from home and wondered whether you really locked all the doors? You are sure you checked them but it would be nice to be sure, really sure. Perhaps the house will tell us in future with a daily update sent to our in box.

Message From Home – Electricity usage higher than normal, no-one present in house, lights left on in three rooms, curtains open. Propose relaxing the fridge temperature slightly to reduce usage, close curtains and rotate light usage on random 4 to 5 minute intervals to deter unwanted intruders….

Perhaps the home will be able to learn patterns in our behaviour and do things for us. For instance, when I visit Reading, My internet radio wakes me at 5:55am but it would be nice to have the hot water turned on for precisely the time needed to reach the temperature I need. If it is cold outside it would be great for the car to be started and heated up ready for me. That way it is frost / ice free and so safer. The engine is warmed up before being placed under stress when cold and so should last longer. Once the car is ready and I may not be; then it should be stopped until I leave the home and approach the vehicle. The latest news reports would have been saved for the topics I love so that these are ready for me as I drive off. As I go I will of course be able to ‘dig into topics I’m listening to’. If there is a new artist I’ve just heard I might want to know more about them audibly from their wiki page. There’s a lot more to come in future and we’ll all want to buy into it.

Wearable Tech / IOT Tech / What’s Been Useful? – As this came up, I thought; “well, I don’t have any”. Of course I do. I have a smart phone and to all intents and purposes it is with me pretty much all the time so it is wearable I guess. I use a GPS watch from time to time when I may not want to take a phone out with me. My car has Satnav. My TV is a Smart TV. My radio is internet enabled and so can reach stations and pod casts around the globe. Being a creature of habit, Radio 2 and Radio 4 is fine most of the time though. Do we really need all of this stuff? Sometimes I do, sometimes I can’t be bothered. But it all about choice, on those infrequent occasions when I want it, I’d like it now please. Why now? well it’s the Internet, it should all be available now.

Child safety is a great tool for wearable tech. I am a keen skier and over in Canada it seems pretty much the norm that when you place your child into a ski school / group they will wear a GPS tracker all the time that they are there. At any one time the instructor will be able to find anyone who may have strayed a little off course. More reassuringly for the parents, at the end of the day you get a link to a web site to see exactly where your child has been and what they have been doing. We trust them enough to know that the children actually were getting exercise and not simply locked in a cupboard whilst one person took all the GPS trackers on  mountain tour! Hopefully you can see that the power of the device is not just a safety device but enhances the experience for the parents. We can watch (with our daughter) the web site tracks that the GPS device left on the mountain and she can tell us about all the routes taken and what happened along the way.

Job Creation or Job Losses? – Mixed views on this subject. It’s difficult to gauge what will happen. It would be nice to think that over time we will have more leisure time available to us, especially if we all have to work until we are 67 going on 75 for some of you. Automation brings the fear that it will reduce the number of manual tasks and so move us all in to admin / managerial positions. We’ll need less of those so what will we all do? It could be argued that just as many new jobs will be created in the IT industry to support all of this with greater numbers of programmers, software engineers, support staff and so forth. Perhaps we will finally start to see people working more when they want to and not the traditional 9 to 5. Maybe there will be more flexibility for us to job share although in IT software development I find that hard to see happening.

Summary Thoughts – The IT revolution has been truly remarkable so far but just reviewing these topics and writing this up makes me think that there is a whole lot more to come. Companies cannot stand still or they slide backwards as other businesses move forward. There are exciting times ahead but with all of this comes the cost of the pace of change and how it is all implemented / used.

If you are interested in joining us at the next Tech Tuesday (and we’d like to see new members anytime) either in central Reading or in central Guildford please let get in touch or follow me and I’ll post the next date, venue and details in this post.

Best Regards, Andrew