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Get ready, IT; here comes the Internet of Things

Evan Schuman | Feb. 12, 2014
You might see security and privacy pitfalls, but the advantages of the Internet of Things mean there's no stopping it. Your smart fridge is going to miss you when you're working every night.

Then there's the grand poobah of household appliances, from an advertising perspective: the networked refrigerator. By scanning the barcodes of its contents and monitoring containers' weight, the smart fridge can keep you informed about expiration dates and an impending exhaustion of supplies. ("Your milk is two days past its expiration date, and you have only two cold beers left.") Makers of those products are going to love having a new and compelling way to nudge consumers to buy more stuff.

Meanwhile, back in the IT data center, all of that data, from all kinds of appliances, will be pouring in, on top of the steadily increasing mobile datalanche you've been seeing for the last year or so.

And you still have to deal with those potential backdoors that you warned the CEO about, the ones he told you are your problem. You are not being overly paranoid about that. We have precedents. Remember when printers and scanners started getting network access and some rudimentary intelligence? IT was thrilled, until it realized that printers had become highly insecure backdoors into corporate networks.

That security threat was obscured by all of the cool things these devices could potentially do. Because who is going to deny that it's cool when your printer can recognize that your 228-page print job can't be completed because it has only 100 sheets of paper loaded, and that printer also has the smarts to send your job to a printer with 250 sheets loaded? Then that second printer realizes that those 250 sheets don't have the letterhead you need for this job, so it finds another printer better equipped for your needs. And the third printer assesses the sensitivity of what you plan to print and sends your job to a printer that has enough paper with the proper letterhead that is located behind a locked door. And it lets you know where to pick up your job and advises you that, since you lack the clearance to get into that room, you are going to need to get someone to let you in. You respond that you need this printout for a meeting at 2 p.m. in conference room 4660, and it calculates when it needs to start the print job and finds yet another printer that meets all your criteria and is located just steps from that conference room. I mean, all of that is very cool!

And so is the Internet of Things. But like those printers, the Internet of Things comes with some serious risks that you and your IT teams will need to clean up. But CEOs tend to get obsessed with all of the good things that a new initiative can do and assume that someone else has their back to ward off any potential dangers. That would be you. So get ready for a lot of new work, because the advantages of the Internet of Things are far too powerful to stop.


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