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The Rise Of The Internet Of Things Is A Blessing And A Curse

The Rise Of The Internet Of Things Is A Blessing And A Curse

People often talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) as if it’s a brand-new invention, but Baker Tilly managing director Tim Meyers says it's been around for decades. From RFID tags that track shipments to “smart tires” that check air pressure, the IoT has found its way into countless aspects of our daily lives. And while many believe that the IoT can only bring us into a smarter, simpler future, Tim believes there are big questions that need to be addressed.

According to Tim, the largest question mark that hangs around the IoT’s neck is the question of security and regulation. From Intel and government organizations to accounting and consulting firms, many in the DC metro area work with highly sensitive information, yet lack a foolproof system to protect this data. For example, the Department of Defense has been using RFID tags to track weaponry shipments for more than a decade, but if they can track it, couldn’t radical groups and other bad actors do so as well?

“I think about utilities that could be tampered with remotely, like the transformers around DC,” Tim says. “Many of these are produced in foreign lands and could easily be accessed and shut down by one or more of our enemies. How do we make sure that the chips in those transformers don't allow back doors?”

In addition, more and more biotechnology products—such as pacemakers and insulin pumps—are using the IoT for more convenient monitoring and management of patients’ status and dosage. These systems, however, may also be vulnerable to tampering.

“If you are a pacemaker recipient, your doctor may have the ability to update the device without surgery, but who else could get remote access?” Tim tells Bisnow.

Another hurdle is the fact that powerful, lasting technology simply isn’t ready and cheaply available. A farmer, he explains, would love to be able to monitor the moisture in his fields using a buried chip, but without advances in battery and power management, it would be a costly process to replace chips annually.

Tim doesn’t deny, however, that there could be a bright future with the IoT. There may be a time, he says, when the IoT may even be able to track the balance of our digestive system and blood chemistry.  

"In my field," he says, "one of the biggest frontiers may be automated data collection to improve business management processes and help provide real-time financial reporting."

Other advancement potential, Tim says, is in the realm of civil engineering and the construction of truly “smart buildings.”

“We are seeing many more companies grow and evolve to utilize these technologies in new and innovative ways. The ability to embed chips in glass, asphalt and structural concrete can help us find potential issues in buildings, roads and bridges. Soon we’re going to have the ability to embed chips throughout the entire construction process, allowing us to know exactly when a Gold Standard energy-efficient window seal is broken because the inside of that window is at a much higher temperature,” says Tim. "As we place more and more of these chips into every building across America, the price may go down to the point where we see chips in the 10th of a penny.”

But, Tim says, we always need to seriously consider what needs to be “smart.” While smart cars can indeed be very cool, he says, do you truly want all of your driving information sent to the police? Or to have your car remotely shut off on the highway?

“The Internet of Things is indeed a wonderful concept,” he says, “but we need to consider the unintended consequences. There’s always both good and bad with technology advancement, and when we see these inventions turned against the people who invented them, we have to start thinking more about how we can advance them more prudently.”

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