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8/18/2014
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Internet Of Things: Limitless Dumb Possibilities

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.

Geek's Guide To NYC Travel: Interop Preview
Geek's Guide To NYC Travel: Interop Preview
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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.

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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

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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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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 3:38:27 PM
Re: Dumb Possibilities
Great for parents of picky eaters. No more hour-long sitdowns at the kitchen table, trying to persuade your toddler that (cold) peas really are yummy!
Some Guy
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Some Guy,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 2:42:54 PM
Taking the Brilliant with the Dumb
Sounds like a great start for a comedy routine, but don't rush to give up the writing job just yet. :)

The assertion, "limitless dumb possibilities," is undoubtedly true; althought, it ignores all the brilliant possiblities as well. One could easily have said the same about the iPhone and App store a few years ago. In fact by the reasoning in this article, we should all abandon planes, trains and automobiles, as we can walk or swim anywhere they go.

In the end the Internet of Things is about low-cost sensors showing up for all kinds of physical phenomena and coming down in price. Add to that the need to communicate from these sensors, and the global communications infrastructure that already exists, and you end up with the dominant design tilting to sensors on the internet. It's pretty basic economics. Just because we don't see the brilliant applications right off, doesn't mean they won't exist. And in fact it will be an emergent development, not unlike the PC and Smart Phones, which have evolved countless numbers of useful peripherals and applications that could not have been foreseen at their inception.

The sensors will exist, be put on the internet, and be justified by an initial use case, but available for an infinitude of other applications (some in combination with other sensors). A lot of Darwinian failures, over hype and disillusionment to follow until we figure out where it works, how to live with how they work (e.g., mandating cyber-security where needed) and eliminating where it doesn't work.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 1:58:08 PM
Re: Nice-to-have but still not necessary
Humans want a lot of things that aren't necessary. Who *needs* jewelry, cherry-flavored Pepsi, or dogs that fit in purses? No one. Does that stop us from spending money on these items? No. A leak notifier is inarguably more useful than a Chihuahua. Water heaters and AC compressors leak all the time.
JohnReagan
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JohnReagan,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 1:23:34 PM
Dumb Possibilities
So I'm setting up a KickStarter for my Wifi enabled Silverware collection......
schatty956
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schatty956,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 1:16:02 PM
"Smart Things" making us Dumber
Humans will be relying more on "smart things" than on their own brains. The brain's capability will be reduced drastically and our abilty to make decisions will be hampered eventually. Our machines will be getting smater, but we will becoming dumber. In some cases having smart technology will help us - but there's a lot of overkill which we can do without. They are just making money out of us by selling us stuff we really don't need.
prospecttoreza
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prospecttoreza,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2014 | 12:41:34 PM
Count your blessings that skilled hackers have better targets to distract them.
But you should not forget the high school kids getting their first hacking experiences on the easiest and most visible targets. Think of the limitless pranking possibilities when some high schooler will full around with your toasters and garage doors just because you happen to be a parent of their classmate.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 12:38:39 PM
Nice-to-have but still not necessary
The coolness and novelty of smart homes and IoT often mask that much of it isn't necessary. We all want to conserve energy and reduce utility bills, but manual monitoring and common sense can still get you there (You probably shouldn't keep the TV on all night). I also wonder about all the data these appliances will generate. What homeowner has the time and patience to analyze it?
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