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It was only a couple of years ago that we – the public- started to understand the term Internet of Things (IoT). Until then, we’d never entertained the idea that our bathroom tap might want to have a chat with the dishwasher.

Our naiveté in these matters promised us many great things. It’s also promising many great dangers.

The IoT is full of inflated promises of increased efficiency, lives made easier, and people and industries made perfect. It’s reminiscent of Snowball falsely promising the others in Animal Farm that their new technology— The Windmill would bring them a life of peace and leisure. A life in which “sordid labor” would be lifted from their backs.

The same promises were made when email and smartphones were invented. These progresses were hailed as a miraculous salve, ready to be employed by all for an easier and better life. The same is now happening with the IoT. The potential benefits grow bright, while the dangers are cast into the quiet shadows.

It’s time to draw attention to these dangers. Here are seven terrifying promises of the Internet of Things:

1. An Unbearable World of Advertisements

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It used to be the case that our private dwellings were our quiet escape from the bombardments of the high street. But marketers encroached on that privacy through TV ads, cold calling, and more recently, our connected devices. With the future promising the connectedness of everything including the kitchen sink, the only means of escaping so many advertisements will be atop a snow-covered mountain How to Turn Your Next Vacation into an Adventure How to Turn Your Next Vacation into an Adventure Adventure is a state of mind. Take a few ideas from here when you want your vacation to be a compromise between new excitements and familiar relaxation. Read More .

2. A Conspiracy of Perfection

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With the IoT comes a burgeoning of “tracking devices Not The Apple Watch: 9 Other iPhone-Friendly Wearables Not The Apple Watch: 9 Other iPhone-Friendly Wearables The announcement of the Apple Watch was big news, but it's far from the only wearable device designed to be used with an iPhone. Read More “. Small devices that track everything from the steps you take, to a minute-by-minute analysis of your cortisol levels. By tracking certain aspects of our lives, we are told, we can “optimize” and “make better life choices”.

In other words, if we have enough data, we will know exactly what to do to become the perfect version of ourselves. If we’re overweight, unwell, tired, or stressed, the fault is ours for not paying attention to “The Data”.

Society will cast asunder us fat, unhappy ones simply for choosing human error over a life dictated by algorithms and apps. The corporations will no-doubt punish us, too. More expensive health insurance because the sensors in the fridge saw how many pork pies we’ve eaten, is just the beginning.

This pressure for continual self-improvement and optimization drags us further from the present than current technology forces us to go. This will necessarily drive an even greater wedge between those who are connected, and those who aren’t.

3. A Waste of Money

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It used to be that when we bought a washing machine, it was a rare expense. The next one would be purchased in 15 years or so. Something might go wrong in the meantime, but the guy down the road would fix it.

Today, washing machines have a much shorter lifespan. We have to be prepared to shell out for a new one around every five years (thanks to planned obsolescence). A new smartphone, smartwatch, and tablet every three or four years. A new laptop every four to five years. These lifespans are short. The only consolation is that there’s not too many things to replace.

Until the IoT, that is.

Your mattress may not need replacing every couple of years, but the sensor inside of it may do. The same goes for your kitchen table, and the sofa. For cheaper connected devices like the kettle, toaster, your belt 5 Ways That High Tech Personal Wearables Will Change Your Life 5 Ways That High Tech Personal Wearables Will Change Your Life Will the internet dissapear? High-tech personal wearables may drive the internet into the background of our lives. Here's how. Read More , light switches and door knobs; expect replacement of these components to become a new, regular expense.

When your house is awash with 30, 50, 100 connected devices, that’s a lot of electronic gadgetry to keep working 365 days per year. That’s a lot of replacing broken sensors. That’s a lot of money.

4. A Security Nightmare

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The Internet has been around for around 20 years now, and its security is far from perfect. Hacker groups still ruthlessly take advantage of these flaws 4 Top Hacker Groups And What They Want 4 Top Hacker Groups And What They Want It's easy to think of hacker groups as some kind of romantic back-room revolutionaries. But who are they really? What do they stand for, and what attacks have they conducted in the past? Read More , despite spending billions on tech security. The IoT, on the other hand, is primitive. And so is its security.

As the IoT explodes, it’s physically impossible for the security industry to keep up. Simply password protecting each of our devices isn’t working. People are leaving default passwords set, leaving their devices massively vulnerable to attack. But who can blame them? Who would want to manually change the password for 75 devices around home and work?

Until this boatload of vulnerable tech is somehow secured (the most common sensors- RFID- actually have no security), your smart-TV‘s, baby monitors and even Jeep Cherokees, remain open to attack. Don’t expect this to be a problem that’ll disappear quickly.

5. A World of No Privacy

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The reason there’s such a buzz about the IoT is quite simple. Once everything we do, say, think, and eat, is tracked, the big data that’s available about each of us is immensely valuable. When companies know our lives inside and out, they can use that data to make us buy even more stuff. Once they control your data, they control you.

When that data is anonymous, it helps companies sell to broad market segments. More preferable, and more valuable, is when that data is relatable to an individual (i.e. you and me). When a supermarket knows the food that you buy, they can offer you completely personalized deals. When Amazon tracks the products you look at, they can recommend other products based on your individual taste.

It’s good business, sure. But it also means that any information tracked about us, can be linked back to us. The calls you make, messages you send, food you eat, clothes you buy, photos you take. The sites you browse, time you spend sat down, number of beers you drink, steps you take, and conversations you have. This information is all open for the picking. Once your connected devices are neatly synced up, the picture of you available to corporations and governments will be more detailed than you could ever imagine. Privacy is dead.

6. Complete Digital Exhaustion

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Look around. There’s little denying that we’re already over-connected. Kids around the world are suffering from extreme digital addiction Extreme Digital Addiction Is Destroying Kids' Lives Around the Globe Extreme Digital Addiction Is Destroying Kids' Lives Around the Globe With children in all corners of the globe becoming immersed in technology from ever-younger ages, it's about time we reflected on the startling impact this is having on their development. Read More . Family time is being ruined by smartphone notifications. What more do we expect from technology?

Is there any real benefit to be had from an oven that turns itself on when it knows you’re on your way home? From receiving a ping when you’re at work telling you the house is too cold? From your smartwatch telling you your plants need watering when you’re on a run?

All this is setting us up for is complete digital burn-out. The anti-tech movement of neo-luddism is fast expanding for a reason. People are tired of relying so much on technology. They’re craving a simpler way of life. Not the inflated promise of one, which is what we’re facing with IoT, but something actually simpler.

7. Impossible Choices

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One of the most pressing technological choices we make today concerns the ecosystems we opt for. When we buy a laptop, do we choose Windows, or Apple? When we buy a smartphone, do we choose Android or iOS Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone vs. Blackberry - Which Is Really The Best OS? [MakeUseOf Poll] Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone vs. Blackberry - Which Is Really The Best OS? [MakeUseOf Poll] Put all biases aside and ignore your actual phone for a minute. Now tell us the truth, which is the best mobile OS out there? Read More ?

Once we’ve made a decision, it’s hard to go back. Moving all of your photos, music and videos from one ecosystem to another is a nightmare, and isn’t something you want to be repeating time and again.

When it comes to the IoT, the choice is even more important. This is because the industry is new, and there are no leading ecosystems to set the “Standard” for how devices communicate. The entire industry is fragmented. Think back to when HD-DVD was battling Blue-Ray. If you placed your bets on HD-DVD, you were out of pocket a year later. We’re in the same position now with the IoT.

If your entire building is running connected devices that rely on different ecosystems, you’ve got a nightmare on your hands. You’ll either have to live with juggling a ton of devices that can’t work together, or you’ll have to replace many of them once a single ecosystem dominates.

What Should We Hope For?

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The IoT will undoubtedly bring benefits. But it’ll also bring many dangers. Those who are pushing for the IoT to become huge, are those who are set to profit the most from it, and we mustn’t be blindsided by this. After all, the IoT will run on Big Data. And Big Data means Big Money.

The focus of this article has largely been on the use of the IoT in the home. Seems this is the area that’s exciting so many consumers, it’s what so many people envision when they hear the term “Internet of Things”.

Yet the technology behind the IoT is doing some amazing works outside of the home as well. In the US, smart-tech is listening out for the sound of gunshots in neighborhoods. In Mumbai, sensors in the water system have helped to reduce lost water by 50%.

So we should stop getting giddy about how smart tech can connect our furniture and utensils to the Web. Instead we should focus our efforts on how we can use this technology to make real change. On how the IoT can offer real benefits to those who need it.

After all, who needs their toilet to tell them how many times they’ve been for a wee?

What other things scare you about the Internet of Things? What should we be wary of, and what should we be looking to avoid?

Image Credits: Google Chrome Advert by Clive Darra (Flickr), Makeup Mistake by Dale Mastin (Flickr),  Money by Tax Credits (Flickr),  Hacker Stock Photo by Adam Thomas (Flickr),Facebook: The privacy saga continues by opensource.com (Flickr), w4rp5oiRAAAAAWR!!!!! by Kevin Jaako (Flickr), Choices by Kyle Pearce (Flickr), Always In Motion Is The Future by JD Hancock (Flickr)

  1. Moruga
    August 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    The real reason for the IoT being shoved down our throats is monetization of capital assets. Soon you will be paying for services and software to run or upgrade your household gadgets. This will be in addition to having your personal information taken to wage psychological warfare on you to relieve you of your hard-earned cash.

  2. Eddie O'Connor
    August 16, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I'll agree with most people here, there really isn't a need for a lot of the things that are getting the "IoT" treatment. The projects and ventures that are relevant, well may they prosper and bring forth more ideas and products or services that can benefit mankind. but I'll ask again: Do we really need certain devices to be connected to the internet? I mean as fcd76218 put it with the plates. Why would that even be considered a convenience? why bother with plates?...instead couldn't the technology be put to better use?...say....in a country where children don't even HAVE plates to eat off of!?......for that matter even if they DID have plates they don't have ANY FOOD TO EAT! Why aren't they devising an IoT way to feed these children?...or to help get water to a village somewhere in the world that doesn't have any? If they can build drones that can spy on various countries, why can't they build some using the IoT? that can map underground water sources for those who don't have water? Why this incredible full-steam-ahead need to push that stuff on us? If I don't want' to use it.....how long before some government agency or bill or article gets reformed to make it mandatory that I have an IoT device on my person or in my home? I'm not crying that the sky is falling, but I'm just asking questions that someone......somewhere....should have asked long before the IoT became a reality. For those who've never read it, find yourself a copy of Orson Wells' book "1984" and then tell me that today's society doesn't resemble that to the letter! If we're going to continue to develop technology let it be for the reason of trying to improve life on this planet, let it be to help our fellow man who is in need, but for the sole purpose of making a profit, security and life-threatening issues be damned?....yeah....that's not too smart!
    But I guess just as in all situations with the US there won't be a law or bill or foundation or anything created until something goes horribly wrong and human life is lost, then it will be the "Safety Commission Of The IoT who will designate a certain technology worthy of being used by the masses, because it will have met their security and safety measures.....

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

      As mentioned at the end of the article, there are people usng this technology for "good" purposes. Take a look at the work of ConservationDrones, a company in my home gown, who're using drone technology for ecological conservation around the globe: http://conservationdrones.org/

      Tackling larger problems is a large challenge, and not for everyone. Some people prefer smaller challenges: i.e. making a bit of cash from selling plates that are connected to the Internet. Granted, most of this stuff is pointless, but the overflo from all of this research and development will, we can hope, reach those who need it most...

  3. Patricia C
    August 12, 2015 at 2:36 am

    When a robo-chef becomes available that can cook me perfect meal, I'll bite. Other than that...meh.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 12, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Ditto! I've not seen anything ytet that makes me think "YES! I NEED that!", nor have I seen anything that will drastically alter the standard of my life in a positive way... this is just more clutter in an already over-cluttered world.

  4. Eddie O'Connor
    August 11, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Intrinsically there is NO real NEED for these devices and gadgets they're cranking out. its to the point that now they're making technology for no other reason other than because they can. I mean seriously? a toilet that can gauge your water usage? Or a fridge that can tell you when you're out of milk? WHY do people feel there's a need for these things? You wanna know if there's milk in the fridge get up off your keester and GO LOOK! Now don't get me wrong SOME things are actually useful - a remote that will turn on the lights after it gets dark so that when you're walking from your car to the house its illuminated, or a programmable thermostat that will kick on if the temperature goes below...say 60 degrees in the dead of winter, so that the old couple won't have to sit around in blankets waiting for the place to warm up. But some things really and TRULY don't make ANY sense.....now bear with me here:

    Supposedly they're trying to stick the IoT in cars, and if its true that the IoT can be easily hacked can you imagine what the outcome would be if a car was hacked while cruising at speeds upwards of 65......70.....80 MPH? And that's a large scale scenario, what about on a smaller scale where your HOUSE gets hacked long after you've gone to sleep? If its easy to hack into a corporate network by sitting in the parking lot with a sniffer, can you imagine what kind of havoc can be wrought by sitting across the street / down the block and hacking into a person's home? You can disable the house phone, thereby removing the ability to call 911, and hoping your neighbors are up at 3AM is almost pointless. While the fitness bands and Android watches don't make too much sense the devices that will alert a doctor or medical personnel to your allergies in the case you cannot do it for yourself do. There's just too much hype and fluff when it comes to this topic. The best bet is to just watch and see while prepping for things that could go WRONG with the IoT. I for one won't be using any of that technology, while I don't mind internet and cellphone usage I'm not too keen on my toaster....coffee maker.....television....fridge....and the three lamps in the from foyer all being connected.....its just too creepy to think about. I'll stick to light bulbs that blow and get changed by me....or discovering I'm out of milk and taking a drive to the grocery store...but hey...that's just me!

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 12, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      I largely agree with your sentiment here, Eddie. The ministule amount of time and effort that MAY be saved with some aspects of the IoT will easily be overridden by the hassle of keeping the devices up to date, or even simply paying for them in the first place.

      And even if they did save users a lot of time, what for? So they can consume more of what's offered on digital? We need a way for people to improve what they do with their leisure time. To spend their lives doing something more productive than ensuring the milk doesn't go off..

      • fcd76218
        August 12, 2015 at 6:03 pm

        At the present time IoT is an example of "when you're a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail" syndrome. Everybody and his uncle is trying to stuff logic circuits into anything and everything imaginable and have it connect to the 'Net. I mean, who needs "smart plates" that can evaluate the food placed on them for nutritional value and then tell you that you shouldn't eat it because it contains too much sodium and too many calories.

        • Rob Nightingale
          August 12, 2015 at 8:18 pm

          Exactly!

    • fcd76218
      August 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      "a fridge that can tell you when you’re out of milk?"
      No. A fridge that can order the milk (and other groceries you're out of) at a IoT supermarket and have them delivered to your house post haste so they can sit on your stoop all day and spoil. :-)

  5. Fred Schechter
    August 6, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Hahahahhahahaha.
    Make sure you fold your foil hat correctly.
    Try to keep in mind, people are making these devices because they find use in the them and they're not out to ruin your world, but improve it.
    When there are regular conveniences that you rely on the IOT to do for you, you may reconsider, however most of those (industrial level conveniences brought to you by IOT type devices) you'll enjoy it. Likely though you won't see them doing their job so it'll seem remote and weird.
    Oh well. Your foil hat looks lovely.

    • Leo Eris
      August 6, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Literally absurd to claim there are no obstacles to overcome.

      • Fred Schechter
        August 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

        I'm in NO WAY saying there are no obstacles to overcome. Nor did I state that.
        What I did state is that people are running around with their hair on fire while people are making things in good faith that do help. The hacker fears are legit but frankly, I'd rather focus on the good rather than scare people.

        Remember blogging is dead, Nietsche is dead, and google glass is dead.

        Oh wait, only one of those is true.

        • Rob Nightingale
          August 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm

          People aren't necessarily making things to help. Many people are making things to hopefully turn a profit from a novelty. There's a large difference between these two things.

  6. hildyblog
    August 6, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    My main objection is lack of need. If I lived alone and worked very irregular hours maybe, just maybe, I could see the use in a remote controlled thermostat but my family's schedule is regular enough that my unconnected thermostat with with 4 programmable day periods for each of seven days (plus a vacation mode) suffices.

    For appliances, their built in, unconnected timers suffice (at least until the Jetson's maid Rosie is available to prepare meals).

    As far as smart lighting, I tried that decades ago with X-10 wire line technology and it's just not that useful. It's quicker and easier to find a wall switch.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 12, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Well said. We don't have any current pain points that the IoT can offer a solution to... yet.

  7. fcd76218
    August 6, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    If we put our ID in front of IoT that just about describes those that fall for it.

    The genie is out of the bottle and there ain't no way in hell we can stuff it back in. Well, there is, but it would mean a catastrophic event that knocks our technology back a century or so. I don't think we would want that to happen.

    My two main objections to IoT are lack of security and lack of privacy. However, once the security problems gets solved all the other problems become very manageable.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Security is a huge issue right now. It's obvious that the vast majority of IoT 'inventions' will fall by the wayside. It'll be interesting to see what actually takes off, and what we feel like we can't live without in 10 years time, but the pain points those few things will be solving are unlikely to be anything particularly important to our overall standard of life...

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