A fridge that maintains the food at optimum temperature, where you can see the contents without opening the door, plays music and even keeps track of the food consumed? Not in the distant future, but happening now. Welcome to the world of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term in everybodyâ€™s mouths, but many donâ€™t know exactly what it is: IoT is the connection of objects such as gadgets, cars or homes, through Internet. Everyday items can be fitted with sensors, connected to the internet and supply/ share data. All these interconnected devices all work together and continuously exchange information. In a way, devices will be both the transmitters and the source of data. The implementation of 5G (which telecoms are pushing to put into effect) will be the backbone of IoT.
While it seems that IoT is the talk of the town as of late, the technology is not really new. Itâ€™s just that now, after years of existing in the telecom structure, it finally finds itself in the stages of reaching the end customer. As technologies continue to evolve, so does IoT.
Despite its time of relative invisibility, make no mistake: Internet of Things will change our lives and how business is conducted. In the parlance of commerce, itâ€™s a â€śgame-changerâ€ť.
It sounds good, doesnâ€™t it? Well, letâ€™s take a look at the implications for customers and for the telecommunications industry.
For end customers, IoT will deliver convenience and practicality. However, while it sure would be nice having your fridge ordering milk for you, this new technology is not without costs; mainly faulty security and lack of control (for the customer) over collected data.
Security is a huge problem. On October 21, 2016 a cyberattack took place on DNS provider Dyn involving numerous DoS (Denial-of-Service) attacks. Several websites were rendered unavailable in the U.S. and Europe by hackers. Â Lax security can make many Internet-connected devices vulnerable to hackers who are becoming increasingly aggressive. This means that data can be stolen, ransoming can take place and devices can be rendered unusable.
Regarding data, because devices are connected to the Internet, they would yield a huge amount of information. The critical question is, who owns it? Manufacturers and businesses do, not the customers. The selling point of IoT to customers is that it would benefit them because usage data would improve their experience. However, itâ€™s important to note that all the data gathered could be used against customers (for example, it could be used to influence healthcare insurance companies). These data-gathering household devices will ultimately bring more money for the manufacturer and businesses. At the moment there are few legal frameworks that address the issues of privacy and data ownership in a way that protects the customers.
What will be the impact of the IoT in the telecommunications industry? The long-term outlook is difficult to predict as there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the evolution of IoT, but short-term it is clear that connecting millions of devices to the Internet will trigger a huge increase in broadband. This turnover of technology also means that a lot of telecommunications equipment will be deemed redundant and will have to be disposed in a way that is legal and environment-friendly (PICS Telecom can help businesses with this)
As mentioned above, 5G will power the IoT. To cope with a demand in broadband, more fiber will have to be laid out underground and underwater and in areas where copper fiber was installed years ago. Â Glass fiber will have to substitute or complement the already existing cabling network as needed. As glass fiber takes over, lots of copper will come out.
Driven by the increase demand in broadband, the telecom industry trend is that as existing technology will converge into SDN tech, lots of hardware will have to be reconfigured to make it more generic (as the software will be the crucial element here). A substantial amount of hardware may be not be eligible for this change and be made redundant.
To be IoT-friendly, devices will have to be fitted with sensors. Not all devices will pass muster and will have be tossed out, which will increase the amount of electronic waste polluting the environment. However, some experts believe that IoT could actually help with sustainability efforts; for example, older devices can be retrofitted with Internet-connected sensors, which will give them a second life and spare the landfill.
To sum this up, for customers the advantages of devices connected to the Internet are a big question mark when the risks are considered. At this moment, security is a huge problem and the law has not caught up with the privacy issues raised by the IoT. Customers will have to become tech-savvy and understand the risks in order to make educated purchasing decisions. As for the telecommunications/ IT industries, there is a lot of uncertainty, but we know for sure that the IoT will mean increasing broadband demand and, as networks have to adapt, will result in telecom/ IT equipment turnover.