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Does the internet of things exist?

I recently read an article about a Google filing with the SEC that describes how Google sees the future of advertising when it comes to many devices. When reading through the filing, I found this gem: “users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future.” While Google is probably doing the right thing to expand their business and their opportunity for revenue, I started to think about life when ads appear on, and again I’ll quote, “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”  I don’t know about you, but this IoT thing sounds like it could be more of an Invasion of Things rather than an Internet of Things.

While it’s true that you don’t have to purchase internet-enabled devices or “things” that could connect with external entities to enable ads, it’s also true you could remain in the comparative dark ages of 2014 as the technology world seeks progress. I look forward to seeing this space develop and think it’s a wonderfully creative place to explore. However, it is unfortunate that many companies see these improvements as a place for advertisements first — or at least that’s their focus if it’s not their primary intent — and as a platform for improving life somewhere down the road.

The NEST thermostat is an amazing piece of technology. The aforementioned SEC filing discusses possibilities such as showing an ad for a sweater when the temperature is raised on a thermostat. It would also enable the use of personal data to be shared with Google (then in turn shared with others), such as temperature settings, motion sensor data, and power consumption data. Google’s vision of compiling enough data to create a complete vision of an individual customer would seem to be a privacy issue for many. I would shell out $250 for this, but to pay $250 and eventually have to watch ads on my wall? Forget about it. Will Google lower the price of the thermostat to compensate individuals for the data gathered? Only time will tell…

That said, the Internet of Things could improve our lives in many extraordinary ways. For example, imagine:

  • Your refrigerator interfacing directly with a grocery delivery service;
  • Your car accessing your calendar so that, based on time and date, it can automatically load your destination in the GPS. If you’re running a little late, your car could then text your ETA to whomever you’re meeting so you can avoid texting and driving.
  • Your car’s in-dash navigation system integrated with your thermostat (or home automation service) to transmit your ETA and bring your house to the ideal temperature before you arrive.
  • A watch that lets you control your life from the convenience of your wrist, integrating with your phone, or your oven, or your thermostat, or even the lock on your front door. 

Of course, the one major downside that this increased connectivity will bring is decreased privacy. A few years ago, many people were upset to discover that their mobile phones were essentially tracking devices that phone companies, governments, and others could use to track their location 24×7. Now we’re poised to enter a realm where more of the things we use every day will be interconnected and sharing data with each other and potentially with third-parties. This may be a trade-off that many are willing to make, just as many people today are willing to trade privacy for convenience on social media sites, search sites, mobile phones, email services…you get the idea. The point is that the Internet of Things is only going to become more invasive, and those who adopt should clearly understand the trade-offs before leaping into convenience while turning a blind eye to personal privacy.

From a technological perspective, I’m excited about the future of device connectivity.  Overall, though, I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic about the Internet of Things from a holistic view. In the meantime, I hope we all continue to educate ourselves on its privacy issues, and prepare ourselves accordingly to make well-informed decisions between convenience and confidentiality.


Kevin Carlson is a 25-year industry and consulting veteran with a unique combination of technology expertise and business acumen. A two-time CTO and founder of multiple successful startups, Carlson brings his technology leadership and entrepreneurial spirit to his role as vice president, client partner and chief security officer at Optaros.  Carlson is an experienced leader of technical and consulting teams and an expert in business development, client relationship, project management and delivery. Find him on Twitter at @ecomvagabond.