Over the past year you have probably seen ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) popping up all over the place, but what does this vague term refer to, and how does it impact you? You may not know it, but you are actually surrounded by IoT – you use it for work, for entertainment, and some of our homes are even ran by it. The majority of us are very dependent on IoT and don’t even realize it.
Internet of Things (abbr: IoT)
Noun The umbrella term for smart devices that connect via the Internet to software that sits external to the device, such as a mobile app.
IoT is the term for the increasing number of smart devices and software that connect with each other via the Internet. Devices such as smartphones, tablets, watches, TVs all fall under the IoT banner – that’s already a lot of things, and the list is rapidly growing.
“by that 2050 there will be 50 billion smart devices connected around the world” (Gartner).
The growth in smart devices means great things for our homes. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of many groundbreaking home technologies, such as smart thermometers, lighting and security cameras. With this connectivity, we are making advances towards future homes that are intuitive to our needs, as well as cost-effective, greener and physically safer. However, this invasion of smart devices into our personal lives doesn’t come without its implications. As your home network grows, so does the strain on its capabilities and its security.
Our smart devices can do incredible things so understandably the majority of us are only interested in the exciting features. Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers are aware of this, and the desire to lower prices results in the less eye-catching functions being ignored or dropped entirely – security is usually one of the fatalities of this cost-cutting. Without proper security, every device you own can act as an access point for hackers to your network, so the more devices on your network the more vulnerable it becomes. A hacker only needs one weak entry point and they are in. From here they have free range of your private information.
With us becoming increasingly dependent on our devices and sharing our personal information with them, our networks have grown to be more valuable than the possessions of our homes. This, coupled with the rapid growth of cyber-attacks on home networks, means we will are likely to see a trend in homeowners taking a pro-active interest in network security and device scanning tools. As we move further into the unknown homeowners will want the peace of mind gained by knowing who is on their network, where their network is vulnerable, and the ability to block unwanted intruders. We are also starting to see developments in cyber insurance. Not only will homeowners be rewarded for purchasing smart home technologies that demonstrate their proactive approach to disaster prevention, but they will also be able to opt for insurance packages specifically targeted at protecting their digital life. Policies, inventories, and claims will all be maintained and processed from the ease of an app to make interactions between homeowners and insurers simpler and more efficient.
We’ve all tried using open Wi-Fi in a café and been frustrated at how slow it moves. That is because these networks can have hundreds of devices trying to use them all at the same time. Even devices that aren’t being actively used, such a phone in a pocket, can still be connecting to that network and running apps and software via the Wi-Fi. These devices are all fighting for bandwidth, and the results are painful for those trying to use them. Whilst this is frustrating, the problem becomes even more annoying when you experience it in your own home. As the number of IoT increases in your house so does the strain on your network. Most smart home technologies, such as security cameras and locks, are required to constantly run in the background, so whilst your phone may be the only thing you are actively using, it is competing against all your ‘inactive’ devices for that precious Wi-Fi. Not only is the increase in the number of devices an issue, but the size of the information that is passing over our Wi-Fi is also growing, particularly with things like video streaming on smart TVs and tablets.
These Wi-Fi problems will lead many consumers towards buying more expensive broadband packages to accommodate for what they believe they now need. However, as the average consumer get more tech savvy we will see a trend toward homeowners desiring the ability to understand how they are using their Wi-Fi. By being able to detect which devices are hogging bandwidth and check the quality of service of the apps they are using, consumers will be able to make the use of Wi-Fi more efficient. They will also be able to troubleshoot the quality of their Wi-Fi connection around their house and identify the optimal places to put their router and devices for the best connection. This visibility and the ability to work on the effectiveness of their network will allow them to identify how much bandwidth they actually require. Homeowners of the future will understand their network’s requirements so will no longer have to rely purely on the recommendations of a broadband salesperson. A final troubleshooting feature many consumers will want is the ability to monitor their Internet speed, so they can check it matches that of their broadband package, allowing them to hold their supplier accountable for any poor service.
It a very exciting time for home technology, and the possibilities of IoT is only going to get bigger and better! Whilst it great to let these devices into our lives, it is also important to be mindful of how we are doing this. The good news is that as IoT advances in our homes so do the IoT troubleshooting and security products to protect them. It is easy to get swept away, and overwhelmed, with the speed at which this new technology is being produced, so it is vital to take some time to understand the security and impact implications these could have on your home network. Our biggest tip for homeowners on network health and security is to take a proactive approach to understanding what is on your network and how it is being used.