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U.S. gets warnings and advice about the Internet of Things

Patrick Thibodeau | June 8, 2016
The IoT can be a force for good and evil, say papers.

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), the only agreement in Washington is on its impact: It will be huge --- in both good and bad ways.

The IoT may become a means to deliver a disabling, global attack. Connected IoT devices have potential to reveal more than a novelist about a person's behavior and bring privacy invasion to a new level. On the plus side, improved automation may save lives, keep people healthy and increase food production.

That's a broad assessment of more than 130 papers submitted by businesses, industry groups, privacy advocates and others who responded to a request by the U.S. Department of Commerce for comment about the IoT's potential.

The government will take this input and issue a "green paper," the name given for a tentative government report, and not an official policy statement. This paper is a windup for the ensuing public policy debate.

One area that most of the commenters avoided, however, was the IoT's impact on jobs. Most of the industry groups said, generally, that more high-skilled people will be needed, but Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm, was one of the few to describe what will be required.

The IoT may make some skills obsolete, such as truck driving, but other jobs will grow in demand, said Booz Allen, and the workforce "will need to adapt.

"Embedded hardware and software developers, API developers, cyber security officers, project managers and product managers will be key to driving businesses forward," said Booz Allen. "Organizations will need trained data scientists to analyze and remove noise from data, and privacy officers will need to analyze vulnerabilities and evolve policies," it wrote.

It sees crowdsourcing becoming increasingly popular as a means for corporations "to access top talent on demand." There will also be new demand for the kind of skills machines can't offer, such as emotional intelligence, creativity "and the ability to deduce meaning from information," said Booz Allen

The IoT will result in job reductions, "but it will also introduce incredible benefits through new, skilled jobs and better quality of life," said Booz Allen.

The American Bar Association (ABA) warned that the IoT may be so vast that responding to a "disabling attack" could exceed "the capacity of any application vendor, the largest global device manufacturers, a self-help community within an industrial sector, or even national governments to address."

That's on the expectation that in North America alone, the IoT will deliver some 250 billion sensors for consumer applications, and 50 billion on highway control devices. This massive deployment "will require a corresponding unprecedented scale of requirements for defensive measures, updates and mitigations in the event of a security compromise," said the ABA.


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