Internet of Things Sure to Reveal Even More About Us Than Smartphones

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-05-14 Print this article Print

Let's take my recent activity on Foursquare, the location-sharing service, where I announced that a friend and I were in line at a place in Chicago called Hot Doug's. Just this mention would tell you where I am, of course, and it would also tell you that I'm a sausage aficionado and that I'm going to the world's top emporium of encased meats. My health insurer would also know that I could be raising my cholesterol through my dietary choices. Someone might even notice that I grabbed a ride on Uber to get back to my hotel.

Right now, this sharing of what might have been considered private information in an earlier day is generally accepted. After all, I'm the one who is putting the info into Foursquare, and I'm the one who said it could go to Twitter and Facebook for my friends and colleagues to see. But suppose you didn't make that decision consciously?

Suppose that instead of intentionally tweeting out your activities, your activities and plans were being shared on a global network that's designed to make life easier for you? If you and your activities are being monitored by a network of sensors that communicate through the IoT, is there even a means by which you can control what is shared and what is not?

Right now, many of the sensors that are becoming part of the IoT already exist in some form. The Internet-connected coffee pot and the connected soda machine were some of the very earliest applications on the Internet. Since that time, this level of connection has grown larger. It reaches farther, and it has already sunk into the background.

My car, for example, already has the ability to connect to its manufacturer's servers to schedule maintenance visits automatically and to warn me of impending problems that may otherwise go unnoticed. In this case, I had to give my car permission to do this. But when the car has its own connection, how long will such permission be required?

You'll notice that I'm not decrying the loss of privacy here. There really are important things that could come out of the IoT. Perhaps health monitors could summon help in case of a heart attack, provided you consent to the monitoring. Or perhaps a beer monitor could help me lose weight by reminding me that more than two bottles of beer is too many.

But what seems to be overlooked here is the need for specific and informed consent. When the sensors and monitors are put in place, you should be able to know what they do and you should be able to turn them off—such as when the day comes that your team makes the playoffs and more than two beers are warranted.

But for the IoT to deliver its promise, it also needs to come with the ability to consent to share the data and control what and when it's shared. Then the IoT will really have the chance to be the boon it could be.



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