Skip to main content

Rough Road for Internet of Things

It's been a tough week for the Internet of Things.

Two cautionary reports described the technical and marketing challenges for the connected technology services and systems in which cable operators are expected to play a significant role.

A Hewlett Packard study unveiled on Tuesday warned that 70% of the most commonly used IoT devices contain vulnerabilities, including password security, encryption and general lack of sufficient user-access permissions.  A day earlier, eMarketer  issued its “Key Digital Trends for Midyear 2014: The Internet of Things, Net Neutrality, and Why Marketers Need to Care”, which compiled and compared several analyses showing low consumer awareness of IoT and relatively low interest in using connected devices (about 28% of respondents were "somewhat interested"; the rest of the survey group even less so).

Nonetheless, an eMarketer analyst offered a positive spin:

"As more name brands get into the game, from Apple to Google to ... Home Depot, Best Buy and Staples, ... consumer awareness [will grow]," said Noah Elkin. "Just don't assume uptake will happen overnight."  

eMarketer's evaluation, using data from a surveys earlier this spring, found that "cars" and "smart appliances" are the IoT technologies that U.S. Internet users "most highly anticipate" (39% and 34% respectively).  Toys, drones, glasses, clothes and sports equipment all fell below the 20% interest level.

Such modest interest levels suggest that cable operators, which are focusing their initial IoT ventures on "smart home" entertainment-related and some energy management services, are pursuing a realistic near-term approach to introduce Internet of Things projects.

The HP study, conducted by the company's "Fortify" unit which specializes in security, presented another reason for a go-slow approach to IoT.  The report points out that device makers' efforts to introduce products quickly "opens the doors for security threats ranging from software vulnerabilities to denial-of-service attacks to weak passwords and cross-site scripting vulnerabilities."

Mike Armistead, vice president/general manager of HP Fortify Enterprise Security Products, said that the IoT "presents a significant challenge in fending off" attacks.  

“With the continued adoption of connected devices, it is more important than ever to build security into these products from the beginning to disrupt the adversary and avoid exposing consumers to serious threats," Armistead said.  The HP evaluation found that, among other things, 70% of IoT devices tested did not encrypt communications to the Internet and local networks;  60% of devices had insecure user interfaces, including "poor session management [and] weak default  credentials."

Coincidentally, the two reports appeared just days after the publication of "Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things" by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab faculty member David Rose.

The wide-ranging visionary volume examines devices and "connectedness" along with human-machine interfaces.  Although the book focuses mostly on devices and services, including accessibility and life-changing potential in an IoT environment, relatively little time is spend on the role of telecom in delivering IoT services.  The final section does take a look at "transformer homes" and, hence, by implication, the role of service providers (such as wired and wireless carriers) in the expansion of  the Internet of Things.

Gary Arlen analyzes technology's impact in the emerging convergence ecosystem from Arlen Communications LLC,  near Washington, D.C.