IoT Networks for Good and Bad…

A little over a decade ago the mobile phone was our only personal connected device (permitting our phone had Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity). Today this number is swelling substantially with, in addition to the personal smartphone, smart watches, wireless earphones, smart keys and maybe even smart shoes and connected glasses adding to list of personal IoT devices.

In fact, it is the advancement in connected wearables that is allowing for one of the most innovative IoT developments. IAV and Microsoft are attempting to make foot travel safer by using intelligent communication among smart devices. Wearable technology used by pedestrians allow for nearby smart traffic lights to attain information about their immediate and predictive positions. These smart traffic lights are then able to push this location information to nearby connected cars, alerting them to the oncoming pedestrians even in situations where the driver may not be aware themselves.

It is these very examples where the network of connected devices may allow for tremendous societal efficiency and increase in wellbeing.

There are other logistical gains to be made from the network of connected devices. Rolls-Royce are able to gather gigabytes of flight data from each of their fitted Trent engines. Using a cloud-based ML system, they are able to improve decision making concerning lowering fuel consumption, making maintenance more efficient and decreasing engine downtime.

A successfully leveraged IoT infrastructure can significantly change a company’s mindset concerning various operational aspects. For example, Rolls-Royce no longer approach engine maintenance with the attitude of monitoring health to avoid potential issues. Rather, they are able to take a more proactive approach of promoting efficiency and maintaining the engine’s asset value.

Unfortunately, the IoT also has the potential to be misused and abused. Recently, Amazon took out a pair of wearable technology patents for its employees that had many observers alarmed.

Ostensibly, Amazon wished to provide haptic feedback to fulfilment workers via wearables as they carried out customers’ orders. Critics argued that Amazon would instead use the wearables as a ‘Big Brother’ style system to track their employees’ every movement and action, imposing punitive measures where needed to improve efficiency.

Of course, it is worth noting that this is based on critical speculation of Amazon’s patents rather than an implemented practise or policy. But it’s worth mentioning as an example of privacy infringements an IoT network could allow for.

Nevertheless, the public mood towards the IoT is one of wonder and anticipation. The benefits, such as safer foot travel and improved logistical efficiency, are numerous and potentially transformative. It is important to keep in mind, however, that not all of these technological developments or, perhaps more specifically, their applications are necessarily for the better.