Image from Pexels
If there’s one thing that we’re all interested in, it’s got to be making our lives easier and whether that’s Adwords automation tools by PPCnerd or developments that are allowing older and more vulnerable people to live more independently, we bring you the latest in tech news changing lives.
We’re talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) and if you thought asking your smartphone to record your favourite TV show via an App was clever, the IoT is going to blow your mind.
Put simply the IoT is everything electric in our lives that sends and receives data. These devices, such as your phone, a smart speaker and so on, can also be interconnected to each other. You can tell Alexa to turn off your lights or lower your heating and you can sit in your car, connected to your phone and ask it to message one of your contacts. This idea of the IoT has been around since the late 1990s but just recently it’s potential for carrying out a greater good has finally been tapped into.
Take the idea of elder care or the care of people who have additional needs. Both have every right to live independent lives, perhaps with a little support and not many of us would choose to live in residential care over our own homes.
Up until this point, it was quite possible for older people to stay in their own homes and support came via unwieldy pull cords and alarm buttons worn on a cord around the neck. This cord could quite easily be forgotten, pushed accidentally or be out of reach should someone fall and become unconscious.
The whole system was underpinned by physical visitations from care stuff, creating a lot of manpower and often quite unnecessary intrusion.
Instead now we can look to the IoT to fill some of these gaps and take the intensity out of supported living. We know smart speakers can play our favourite music but how about speakers that help you keep track of your medication times, dental visits and so on. The owner doesn’t even need to be the one to programme them either, with the responsibility fielded to an outside care provider – avoiding any mix ups or memory slips.
That would be great in itself but consider smart light bulbs that automatically switch off after a certain point in the night if forgotten and you’re starting to have a home that is fully equipped for independent living. But perhaps the most impressive features to emerge are the life sensors, deployed around the home to monitor actions like movement, ambient temperature and so on. Imagine if you could monitor when a fridge door is opened or when a cooker is in use, you’d know if the person was looking after themselves properly and getting adequate nutrition.
Of course you’d also have smart doorbells attached to video screens that could allow access to approved visitors through facial recognition or a code. Perhaps the most important aspect to someone living on their own would be the instant access afforded to them by technology such as tablet-like modules, set up to give face-to-face contact with a loved one at the touch of a screen or a voice command. These modules, linked to smart speakers will also be able to summon emergency help if required and act as a storage point for all the data collected from the home sensors, sent through to a central monitor held by an outside caregiver.
Too good to be true? Well admittedly with all these things there are elements that trouble people and with the Internet of Things the trouble comes in two parts.
Firstly, the amount of data held on someone. It could quite easily be seen as a huge invasion of privacy, knowing people’s every habit and movement around the house, it feels a little creepy to some people. While the tech itself means the monitoring is well camouflaged, it’s still effectively following someone’s movements 24-hours a day and what does someone do with all that data anyway?
Which brings us to the second point around the IoT. Security. With so much data and knowledge around the habits of individuals it would be very easy for that information to be used for criminal purposes. If you know when someone has an appointment with the doctor, what’s to stop you using that information to gain or allow someone else to gain access to their property? There is a big question mark over this handler interaction and, as yet, not many answers. The second aspect of security is of course with the technology itself.
If all data, sent and received, flows through a central bank then what happens if that bank is hacked? Quite simply it puts at risk potentially hundreds of people who might otherwise forget to take vital medication or not be able to summon help in the case of an emergency. Cyber security is probably the key issue that puts all of us at risk in our interconnected lives.
This also applies to the smart devices singularly, while some of our tech can be updated either remotely or by being attached to our laptops some can’t and it’s these stand-alone pieces that are vulnerable. For example, a smart bulb might be able to receive the data that tells it when to switch off but if a virus is also sent as part of the data, without a robust defence it becomes very vulnerable.
The IoT is exciting, it’s now and it’s the future for all of us. It has application for helping older and the more vulnerable lead independent lives and it has scope for us all to have what we need at the touch of a button or voice command in our own home. But the security threat is very real and hasn’t been adequately addressed for either business or personal use. Buy into the IoT, get connected but keep a watchful eye on your devices, they’re not as smart as you.