As technology becomes further and further integrated into our daily lives, the risks that technology poses become ever more present, even if those risks are at times exaggerated by the media. Case in point, the raft of articles concerning the threat of 'car hacking.' Some of the articles make the threat seem imminent and continuous while others are dismissive, but there remains a possibility, under very specific and rare circumstances, that someone could hack a car. And this is just one of the risks that are on the rise in the era of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is when many, most, or all of the everyday objects around us are able to wirelessly communicate with both us and each other. And the stuff that can communicate isn't just the expected things like our smart phone, wireless keyboard, TVs, computers, etc., but also the unexpected, like our fridges and washing machines, our cars and bikes, even our small consumer goods like liquor bottles. It won't just be that our fridge can tell what groceries we're running low on, it's the groceries themselves that will let us know.
A lot of the potential of the internet of things, when it comes to consumer goods at least, lies in the advantages it provides to companies and advertisers to learn about their consumer audience. When all you need to do is attach a small, cheap microchip with wireless capability to your product that will give you access not just to the internet, but also information on each consumer that buys the product (and everything else that consumer buys) marketers will jump at the chance.
The problem is that any wireless capable device is capable of being compromised. Hence the reasonable level of paranoia from people such as Advertising Age's Ken Wheaton, whose article "Don't Turn Your Back on Your Car, or Why the Internet of Things Scares Me" explores the fears that come with this technologically advanced world. Wheaton mentions a Wired article from last year, "How Hackable Is Your Car? Consult This Handy Chart," listing the various ways cars could be compromised. It's enough to worry a driver. The risk is low now, but what about when everyone is driving smart cars?
The danger in this new phase of the Internet of Things is that this isn't just our smartphone getting hacked, or our computer getting overrun with spam. This is a risk, however small, that comes with real physical consequence. Some of the cars that could be hacked had their steering mechanisms taken over. Will lives be put at actual risk because someone forgot to update their car software with the latest patch?
This is the future, for good and for bad. We will soon live in a completely wireless world. And our preparation for it is looking less than adequate.