The breakthroughs that change our lives do not, usually, arrive in the world with a loud fanfare and an instant acceptance and understanding of the new arrival’s enormous significance. The Wright brothers, for example, were the first aviators to successfully pilot a power-driven, heavier-than-air flying machine on 17 December 1903. It was a ground-breaking (should we say air-breaking?) accomplishment in those early aviation years, and yet news of their feat, which changed the history of powered and controlled flight through the air, was only published for the first time some four and a half years later, in May 1908. And back down on the ground, just 20 years before Henry Ford popularised the first mass-produced motor vehicles, the American Congress scorned the idea of “horseless carriages propelled by gasoline” – how very wrong they turned out to be!
These stories and others are outlined by global trends and innovation specialist and business strategist John Sanei, who explains how the world embraces the arrival of significant events slowly. Sanei says that it takes time for the understanding of new technology to be accepted as anything other than a novelty, gimmick or toy, until – often quite suddenly – general acceptance and adoption takes place. And so it is, arguably, with the Internet of Things (IoT) today.
“Be honest with yourself,” says Bryan Hamman, Arbor Network’s territory manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, “and look back to your first thoughts on the budding IoT world. Wasn’t there a part of your mind that dismissed the idea of ‘intelligent linked fridges’, for example, as being something better suited to a big budget Hollywood movie than actually belonging in your kitchen? And yet IoT is no longer a buzz phrase, and it is also so much more than talking fridges. IoT is a key element in the so-named Fourth Industrial Revolution, which blends digital possibilities with the physical world and is touted as being set the change the world, as eventually occurred with the first three industrial revolutions (see textbox). The installed base of IoT devices is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide by 2020”
When we look at IoT trends for the coming year, we see experts’ predictions including the following:
- Ongoing growth and the expansion of the number of online devices, with real progress seen in industries such as retail, healthcare and industrial/supply chain.
- As IoT continues to expand through an increasing number of devices, it is also predicted to become more fragmented. This will lead to potential system compromises and security risks.
- Mobile platform development will continue – again bringing unique security needs.
- In a global economy with billions of interconnected devices – which are growing all the time – the importance of adopting data analytics into companies’ business models becomes increasingly important.
- Not all IoT devices will ideally communicate directly with the cloud. Some IoT compute will be applied towards the edges of the network, driven by factors such as the amount of data, network availability and latency, and security.
Arbor Networks has noted previously that, “The Internet of Things (IoT) brings the promise of efficiency and innovation to the enterprise. IoT also profoundly expands the threat surface for your organisation.”
Hamman clarifies, “With the IoT comes the dark reality of the botnet – a collection of internet-connected devices, which may include PCs, servers, mobile devices and IoT devices such as security cameras, which are infected and controlled by a common type of malware. When the threat attacker is ready, the botnet lurking in the system is launched and disrupts the network through a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
“On 21 October, 2016, a major DDoS attack hit servers of US titans such as The New York Times, Netflix, Twitter and Paypal. These attacks were made possible by the large number of unsecured internet-connected digital devices, such as home routers and surveillance cameras. The attackers employed thousands of such devices that had been infected with malicious code to form a botnet.”
Attacks on IoT devices, which bring down a network, can cause devastating effects on a business through depleting consumer confidence, disrupting online sales and activity, and ultimately affecting both a company’s bottom line as well as its brand reputation.
Hamman concludes, “The trends predicted for this year show that the IoT is here to stay in the modern era. This is not an industrial revolution ‘powered by gasoline’ – arguably its polar opposite, in fact. However, its ongoing momentum is anticipated to once again, in time, offer the world real opportunities for significant change at the greater societal level – just as the First Industrial Revolution completely altered the mechanisation of production via steam and water, and in the process changed the parameters of the then-working world completely.
“Whether you benefit from opportunities that will come via IoT will depend on your openness to embrace change. To hark back to the early days of Henry Ford: this is one – non-gasoline powered! – bus that you don’t want to miss. In the process, it’s critically important to ensure that you have the necessary cybersecurity measures in place, as the IoT brings both opportunities as well as constantly lurking threats.”
The First Industrial Revolution was characterized by the use of steam and water to mechanize production. The Second Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of electricity for mass production. The Third is characterized by the internet, communication technologies, and the digitization of everything. The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on this further, through the concept of blurring the real world with the technological world.