Ever since personal computers began to creep into our lives in the mid-to-late 1970s, people have been talking about home computers and home computing. Microprocessors and high-tech sensors were going to be embedded into everything, and we were going to live in smart homes, drive smart cars, and rely on robots and other devices to do all the things that we either could not do well or did not want to do. As we were told in grammar school, things would continue to get easier and we would live happily ever after.
In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler told us that for every modern convenience, there is an equal and opposite inconvenience. If you watch the news, you might think that Alvin was right. While new technologies and products come with great benefits, we have learned that these benefits often come with new problems that typically fall into at least three categories:
1. Greater complexity. Many of us have discovered that our new cars are sometimes smarter than we are. Learning how to operate them is not a trivial exercise that can cause problems when we rent them at an airport or receive a loaner when we bring them in for service.
2. Bad guys can take advantage of the same benefits. As products become more complex, they come with vulnerabilities that hackers and people with bad intentions can use against us. Identities are being stolen, credit cards are being hacked, and evil forces are penetrating security systems to steal or manipulate whatever they want.
3. More can go wrong. As products get more complex, there are more things that can go wrong with them. And, when they break, they are not so easy to fix. Is the problem in the hardware? If so, where? Is it a bug in the operating system? Is in the applications software? Is it operator error?
One thing we know for sure is that operators are making more errors. Distracted drivers cause 40% of traffic accidents, and according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, (NHTSA), they cause 10% of all fatal crashes and 17% of injury-causing accidents.
No matter what the obstacles, the IoT is likely to charge forward because of its potential to save and improve lives, give users piece of mind, and save time. After all, people want to be able to (1) check on the kids when they leave them with the baby sitter or find them when they get lost in a department store, (2) make sure they locked the door or turned off the oven, or (3) notify the doctor right away if they are experiencing a life threatening event. For companies that want to sell their IoT related products and buyers that want to use them, the IoT holds great promise. The more buyers and sellers know about the benefits and potential pitfalls, the more likely they can enjoy the benefits without suffering serious consequences. Since the IoT can do a lot of great things, it is important for buyers and sellers to better understand it so they can help to overcome the obstacles for the greater good.
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