If you’ve read any technology news recently, you’ve probably heard the term IoT (or the Internet of Things). It’s likely to be a game-changing technology that will eventually affect most of us. But, like with any technological advance, there are some pros and cons to IoT.
Here’s what you need to know about IoT, as well as its risks and rewards.
What is the Internet of Things?
The “Internet of Things” can be thought of as physical objects in the real world that connect to each other through the Internet. Each object or device is a “thing” in this interconnected network. Those things can be smartwatches, smart appliances, cars with embedded sensors, or a system of smart sensors used for traffic control.
For consumers, IoT devices can take different forms. A set of car tires, for example, could contain sensors that alert a driver when they’re low on pressure. You’re probably already familiar with smart thermostats that can automate a home’s temperature control or smart fire alarms that can send you a smartphone alert when they detect smoke. The fitness tracker or smartwatch on your wrist counts, too.
All of these technologies create a much more efficient, automatic, and connected lifestyle for their users. That’s one of the pros; however, they also open the door to some risks that just aren’t present for traditional hardware systems.
That brings us to the pros and cons of IoT devices, which everybody should familiarize themselves with.
Pros of the Internet of Things
- Ease of control: Most IoT devices, at their core, are designed to make life easier for their users. Controlling your thermostat from your phone can save you a trip to the living room. A smart pet feeder can keep your cat or dog from going hungry if you happen to forget their mealtime.
- Automation: IoT hardware often lets you remotely control from a smartphone or another device. They also offer automation options, meaning the ability to carry out tasks without your input at all. A smart lock can automatically unlock itself if you approach with a smartphone. Some audio systems can “follow” you around the house, automatically detecting which room should have audio playing and disabling playback in empty ones.
- Physical safety: Arguably, among the most important IoT devices are ones that contribute to the physical safety of their users. Think home security cameras, smart carbon monoxide detectors, or Internet-connected fire alarms.
- More information: IoT devices produce data of all types. That data can help you make better decisions and stay informed about aspects of your life — from the temperature in your home to your heart rate during intense workouts.
- Cost savings: Electronic devices that can automatically communicate with each other and their users are much more efficient. That can translate to cost-savings for the end-user.
Cons of the Internet of Things
- Complexity: Most IoT devices are simple to use, but there’s still a learning curve for many of them. Similarly, it isn’t always easy or intuitive to actually set up an IoT-equipped smart home. That means some users may need to enlist outside help to get up and running.
- Dependence on technology: If you’ve ever lamented the fact that you’re more dependent on technology, IoT isn’t going to help that feeling. There are practical concerns, too. A problematic Wi-Fi network could bring down your smart home, disabling your thermostats, fire alarms, and other critical hardware.
- Privacy risks: As mentioned earlier, IoT devices produce data. And while you have access to that data, other parties might have access as well. In most cases, bad actors aren’t going to be snooping on your private information. But the risk for that is there.
- Cybersecurity concerns: Anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an IoT device’s security settings aren’t guaranteed. You can, however, take steps to protect yourself.
- The pace of innovation: Technological advancement is inevitable, meaning that your devices will eventually become obsolete. Some people are happy to use older tech in their daily lives, but some tech will need to be replaced.
As our access to interconnected devices increases, so does the risk of a cyberattack. During Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we encourage you to do your part and #BeCyberSmart about how you manage your devices on a daily basis.
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