Many of the "improvements" to ordinary household objects promised by SmartThings, a software company just acquired by Samsung, are already available elsewhere or seem like overkill.
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In the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, the starship for which the series is named escapes destruction because its computers were not networked.
This profoundly pessimistic view of network security qualifies as realism outside the realm of science fiction. Computers and networks are full of vulnerabilities. Beyond mission-critical, heavily-overseen projects with limited scope, the security industry doesn't even contemplate bulletproof code. Instead, it measures software defects per thousand or million source code lines. There will be bugs; the only question is how many.
The NASA space shuttle relied on 420,000 lines of spaceflight software code. The last three versions of this program contained one error each. In the last 11 iterations, there were only 17 flaws. That's what a staff of 260 people and billions in funding will buy you. Defect counts in commercial projects are much worse.
So it should come as no surprise that 70% of the most widely used devices associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) contain serious vulnerabilities, according to HP Fortify. The security firm found an average of 25 vulnerabilities per device among the top 10 IoT devices. Had Galactica's Cylons attacked your smart home, they'd have let themselves in and turned your toaster against you. Count your blessings that skilled hackers have better targets to distract them.
The Internet of Things anticipates a time when everyday objects and appliances can connect to the Internet. It fails to consider whether our things really should be connected to the Internet. Just as everything looks like a nail when you're a hammer, every device looks like a network node when you're a technology company.
This perhaps explains why Samsung, the company that last year introduced a "smart" refrigerator at CES, on Thursday acquired SmartThings, a company dedicated to the proposition that "everyday objects around us can do more to make our lives better." At the very least, there's the opportunity to ensure that everyday objects cost more.
Samsung joins a growing list of companies committed to a home full of networked objects. Google bought Nest and Dropcam. Apple has HomeKit and HealthKit coming soon. Microsoft is pushing Windows Embedded and Azure Intelligent Systems Service. Cisco wants to provide the networking
Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
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