In 1985 technology expert Peter T. Lewis already envisioned the world where physical devices would collect and exchange data, performing tasks such as monitoring and operating remotely. From smartphones to connected devices, the Internet of Things – as he baptized it more than thirty years ago – is now a reality, and a fast-growing industry.
A flourishing and changing market
The market for connected devices continues to grow rapidly. According to Gartner, in 2014 $939m was spent by consumers on connected devices worldwide, whereas only two years later the same source reported a 50% annual increase with an outlay of almost $1.5 billion. Even more surprisingly by 2020, it is predicted that $1.5 trillion will be spent on the Internet of Things. The industries to benefit most from connected devices will be healthcare, manufacturing, and insurance, market research specialists Sondergaard reported.
Cisco has found the number of connected devices surpassed the world population in 2015. Despite this, the industry does not seem to be showing any signs of market saturation. The NCTA, an internet and television association, estimates that in the US alone, 24% of the population has between 4 to 10 connected devices at home. This diversity is reflected in the market, where we see a year-on-year decrease in the use of laptops and PCs, whereas the use of mobile and other devices is increasing, according to Hootsuite.
Potential dangers to privacy
A number of articles about connected devices in recent months have raised concerns about security flaws that could be exploited by hackers. In 2017 Mozilla closed its connected devices department to focus on experimental technologies that might be more secure.
When devices connect to the internet they upload large amounts of personal data. Cisco has estimated that by 2020 connected devices will reach 600 ZB per year of the total volume of data uploaded to the cloud, 275 times higher than projected traffic going from data centers to end users/devices (2.2 ZB). Connected devices, therefore, represent weak points from where all this information can be accessed.
Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at Sentinelone, a cyber security company, has stated that regulating the industry is virtually impossible because companies connecting devices to the internet do not fit into any one category. Nevertheless, both legal and technical progress has been made. Internet security platforms such as Zscaler offer protection against security breaches with a cloud-based solution. Additionally, some developed countries are trying to create a safer Internet of Things. In Canada, the government requires companies to safeguard all the information they collect. In Europe, some regulations allow companies only to collect essential information. Australia obliges companies to comply with privacy policies as set out by the national government.
With more than one hundred privacy laws in force at the moment – compared to only twenty in the 90s according to Deloitte’s 2015 Report – there is real hope for a safer future.