You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things. You might have quickly decided it sounds like too much to look up. Let me simplify it for you: it’s about using the Internet to control your stuff that may or may not be mobile.
I already knew this, and had a pretty good idea about how it works. I’ve written about the “smart home” concepts for clients and wondered how safe this is. Aren’t there geniuses in North Korea and China chained to cubicles and ordered to hack our smartphones this very moment?
If I wired my home security to the phone, what could stop some devious person from breaking in and stealing Junior Yankee from me in the dead of a late Saturday morning when he’s asleep but I’m away at a conference on the Internet of Things? Or what if they want my adorable Chihuahua and Dachahuahua? Is IoT, as it’s also known, a safe place?
The Internet of Things is a Wonderful and Scary Place
I got an email about a local IoT DevFest. Since it was being held at the Mesa Arts Center, I figured it was hosted by a legitimate tech group and not a nefarious dictatorship, although its co-sponsors included Google Developers and Intel.
I’m just joking! Really, Google, get a sense of humor.
A very nice guy named Mike Wolfson (he’s an Android/Java developer) organized the conference on behalf of the Phoenix Meetup for the Internet of Things. He comped me a ticket after I emailed him asking if it would be too technical for an interested, semi-techy, writer.
It was time well-spent. Not only did I learn much more about IoT, but out of a group of perhaps 150 people, there was no line for the ladies’ room during the first, post-coffee break. (Not so the mens room!)
Here are more reasons to like IoT:
- It’s a bona fide Arizona industry. There are firms right here in our state doing amazing work with IoT most of us couldn’t have imagined five years ago.
- Its growth potential is huge. A few speakers cited a Gartner Research finding that about a million new devices come online each day, making IoT is a potential $14 billion market.
- It enables and improves technologies, including mobile technology. A Tempe manufacturer called Local Motors created a series of 3D printed cars. Check out their video below.
- How is this related to IoT? It’s powered by a platform created by another Tempe company, Octoblu (now owned by Citrix), which works to integrate anything and everything through the Internet. You can control the car through a laptop and I’m sure, through a very well-protected smartphone someday soon.
- IoT developers care about delivering quality products. I’m among millions of frustrated people who’ve written about abysmally slow US Internet speeds. IoT platform designers will be the ones to push for a faster Internet on our shores. Here’s an article I wrote on Internet Speed a couple of years ago.
Here’s where IoT is scary: security gaps.
Platform developers like Octoblu are working hard to maximize security on their end. They’re constantly hiring people to hack their systems and help them identify where there are weak spots. It won’t be easy for Kim Jong Un’s minions to break into their platform.
The problem comes from the device side of things, where there are no security standards. The best platform developers can do is blacklist devices and firms that are notoriously sloppy and easy to hack. They should also take the lead in persuading and assisting mobile developers to improve security and invest in new safeguards.
Right now, the safest way to communicate between two places is peer-to-peer (P2P), which of course makes it less “mobile” in some ways, but it is the most difficult to hack.
The Phoenix IoT Community is Robust and Enthusiastic
Honestly, IoT folks are not just enthusiastic at work but also at 9 am on a bright Saturday morning, after a rainy week when it’s tempting to ditch a conference and go for a hike.
Not this group. The auditorium was full for the keynote speaker, Octoblu founder and local IoT god, Chris Matthieu, who sports an impressive twirly-style mustache. In this video, he explains how Citrix used Octoblu technologies to power that 3D car.
Citrix also hosts the IoT Hackers Meetup. As a member of a couple of WordPress meetups, I appreciate when companies loan their spaces.
Another local group that brings together IoT developers is CO+HOOTS. It shares offices in downtown Phoenix to encourage collaboration among techies in various areas, including software and app developers. You don’t have to be a techie to use their space, though: the site lists graphic designers, filmmakers, photographers, and independent types like lawyers, real estate agents, and ahem, writers as among their members.
Want to know what the experts say will be IoT highlights in 2016? Check out this blog entry from Chris Witeck, Citrix’s chief technology strategist.