Imagine an average morning in your household, but with a few perks. Instead of the piercing ring of your alarm clock, you're gently woken up by natural light streaming in through the blinds that have magically opened themselves. Then, isn't it great to slip out of bed to find the heating has adjusted itself to “just right”? As you let out that massive yawn that makes it so tempting to crawl back into bed, you receive a text. “Good Morning! Your coffee's ready. See you in the kitchen.” Downstairs your fridge informs you you've run out of milk so no breakfast this morning then... But wait, another text arrives. “Barely any traffic. You have an extra 5 minutes.” Time enough to stop off at the local deli for a bacon roll. Win!
But are these really perks? Or is this inviting technology too far into our lives? The Internet of Things is fast becoming reality, which is why the European Commission (EC) is interested in your opinion on the “governance” of such a digitalised world.
A sophisticated network, the Internet of Things allows man made machines to communicate with man using radio frequency identification tags and other wireless, non-contact systems. It marks the move from accessing the internet through computers, smartphones and tablets to being in constant contact with it from home to public places to work.
The Internet of Things does, of course, have its benefits. It could potentially save lives by alerting others of accidents and potential dangers. And it could make life more independent for people who currently rely on others for assistance. But a lot of concern has been raised about the Internet of Things and the influence it could bear on society.
One of the prevalent arguments against the Internet of Things is the resulting loss of privacy. The collection of personal data is inevitable as your smart devices rely on it to deliver a personalised experience. Users essentially have to share more data with their smart technology than their partners and closest friends. So it could be argued that the Internet of Things relies on surveillance of the utmost kind to perform at its best.
But what if this sensitive information were to end up in the wrong hands? It could be used and abused for a whole host of reasons that leads us to the second major concern – security.
Is there any way the system could guarantee data protection? I'm inclined to say no. If the human race is smart enough to develop the Internet of Things, it's also well-equipped to break into the network and lift data from it. Though a solid legal framework would deter some from hacking into private networks, others would be far too tempted by potential rewards from individuals and organisations to whom this data could be extremely valuable, *cough cough* advertisers *cough cough* among others. Not to mention the criminals that would be more than happy to find out exactly what time you leave your house every day, or blackmail you threatening to release sensitive information if you don't pay up etc. etc.
My own concerns are centered around the influence of the Internet of Things on human well-being and relationships. First of all, I'm not sure we're entirely aware yet of the perils of constant subjection to such intense radio and electromagnetic waves. So inviting them to further infiltrate our world doesn't seem right before this influence has been assessed.
Secondly, I think we risk damaging our intellectual capacity. By relying on technology to dictate our every move, we'll lose the ability to think for ourselves, and will become lazy and impatient. Will those born into a world of Internet of Things know how to cope if a device fails to do what it's meant to?
I also think our relationships will suffer as we spend an increasing amount of time communicating with machines. To me, human contact is necessary to maintain a happy and healthy society. But 1 in 4 mums in the UK already spends more time online than with her children (just to end this blog on a sombre note...).
Would you like to see the rise of the Internet of Things? Or are you opposed to the idea of smart technology further infiltrating our lives? Let me know. (And don't forget to submit your opinion to the EC's public consulation!)