The internet of things

We technologists love acronyms and buzzwords. Five minutes ago you were talking about SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) or  “gamification and now it’s nearly impossible to navigate the Internet without stumbling across a blog post or article that talks about the “IoT” or the Internet of Things.

BUT WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS?

The principle is quite simple, it’s the interconnection of, and communication between, objects and devices that we rely upon daily with the goal of simplifying tasks we perform and enhancing our lives.

In the very near future many objects will be connected to a network to communicate with its environment. Your fridge, your watch, your coffee maker, your lighting system, you name it!

Yesterday’s science fiction is now today’s reality. Take smart watches for example, which I am sure you have heard about with the launch of the Apple watch a few weeks ago. Or, the “Nest” home thermometer… Using this system, you can remotely control the temperature of your house. The system will learn your habits and preferences to automatically keep the climate within your house exactly how you like it.

HOW EMAIL IS GOING TO PLAY ITS PART

Email is one of the simplest forms of online communication, (that’s even what the S in SMTP stands for: simple). It is also a mature and robust form of communication with an incredibly high adoption rate.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and IoT communications need more than one protocol and are currently using protocols like Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), ETSI SmartM2M, OMA LightweightM2M, Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), Data Distribution Service (DDS), Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) and Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT).

Multiple big name players are aligned within working groups to help drive an open IoT built to standards.

And, while XMPP will drive many communications between people and their devices, it is logical to assume that communications over SMTP will be parsed at the very least.

With the variety of devices on which you can be reached, if your fridge’s almost empty of if you’re just about to run out of eggs for example, sending you a message to remind you to stop at the grocery store seems the easiest way of reaching you.

Of course you could also do that through a native app but could you imagine having to use one app per device? Being a device agnostic application, email makes everything simple…

WHAT ABOUT SECURITY?

Of course, every innovation comes with risks and any connected device has the potential to introduce new vulnerabilities to a network.

The past has taught us that we don’t know enough about the future to design a system to be secure forever and the IoT will introduce us to the fresh set of challenges born of new threats that we must mitigate operating within new constraints. Many existing security controls will require too much disk-space or processing overhead to be practical for many IoT devices and applications.

Security will need to be considered and addressed throughout the entire lifecycle for IoT devices and applications, from booting through to patching and everything in between.

Not to say there won’t be false alarms too, early in 2014, there were stories about a spam attack of more than 750,000 messages, 25% of which supposedly originating from non-traditional devices (i.e. computers and mobile devices). If Symantec later explained that no home appliance had actually been used to send malicious messages, as the usage grows, it is to be expected for this type of attacks to become as common as any other.

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By Mark | May 13, 2015

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