Internet of Things (IoT) - In a nutshell, it means every frigging thing having sensors in them and connected to the Internet. From your bed to your refrigerator to the chairs in the conference room. Many, many things have to be done, and done right, to make it a (good) reality.

Last Update: 8/15/2018

What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) can sound intimidating in terms of underlying technology, but for mobile "things" it is simple: it is the combining the location of the thing with state, status, and/or condition of the thing--measured by sensors--to derive the thing's context. It is this context--determined and enhanced by the cloud--that should underlie and drive the value of IoT and form the basis of all IoT applications.
Thus the historical focus of this site, Location-Based Services, will become one of the cornerstones of IoT. This page will focus on the critical role mobile location and context will play in delivering on the promise of IoT, as well as avoid its pitfalls.

The Internet of Things - The Future of Mobile Location and Context


Siri, Why Do I Feel Like I’m Being Watched?

The Internet of Things will soon be ubiquitous. That means you can kiss your privacy goodbye.

(The Wall Street Journal, August 11-12, 2018)

Megan and Michael Neitzel scratched their heads in confusion when a giant box containing a dollhouse and 4 pounds of sugar cookies was delivered to their Dallas home last year. The day before, their 6-year-old daughter, Brooke, had been chatting innocently with the family’s new digital personal assistant, the Amazon Echo. The little girl at first denied placing the $162 order, but eventually fessed up.

Voice-recognition tools like the Echo are the most common—and popular—example of a looming revolution in human-computer interaction known as the Internet of Things, which promises to redefine how we live, travel and work. The home of the very near future will be an always-listening, always-watching surveillance system designed to anticipate and fulfill your needs. Cars and offices will operate in much the same way.

It won’t be long before your new dishwasher will want the ability to talk to your Amazon Echo so that it can order more detergent. Your new bike will get annoyed if it can’t communicate with the map app on your smartphone. Your FitBit will have a relationship with your popcorn popper. They’ll all be sending reports back to Palo Alto or Mountain View or Cupertino, presuming they aren’t already.

Kiss privacy goodbye.

Any device that once had a purely analog function but can now be connected to the web—or to other devices through the web—is a potential part of the Internet of Things. The logic, typically, is commercial. The companies that develop and manufacture these networked devices seek better ways to reach consumers with products and advertising. If you have an Echo, you’ve already provided Amazon with your credit-card number, address, birthday and the names of all your children. You’ve also uploaded a “wish list” of products you’re interested in, and, quite possibly, your deodorant preferences, personal measurements, taste in movies and baby’s diaper size. Amazon knows more about us than we can imagine.

Funnily enough, market research shows that people don’t mind handing over such highly personal information—to the right company. According to Fortune, Amazon is one of the three most admired companies in the world, along with Apple and Google. Other Silicon Valley tech companies collect, store and sell personal information about their users to advertisers, but Amazon, Apple and Google are perceived as providing a valuable service in exchange for the right to monetize customers’ privacy. And if the Internet of Things has any purpose at all, it’s to monetize privacy...

...The grand bargain between Silicon Valley and the average person has always been this: You give up your privacy, and we’ll give you cool stuff. “If today’s social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species, it is that the human impulse to share overwhelms the human impulse for privacy,” writes the technology guru Kevin Kelly in his 2016 book, “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.” So far, he adds, “at every juncture that offers a choice, we’ve tilted, on average, toward more sharing, more disclosure, more transparency. I would sum it up like this: Vanity trumps privacy.”

A surprise purchase of a dollhouse and some cookies might seem a fairly weak indictment of the threat to privacy posed by the Internet of Things. Consider a more disturbing scenario. A Washington state couple grew concerned a few years ago when their 3-year-old son developed anxiety about going to bed. They didn’t know whether to believe the child when he told them that someone was talking to him at night. “Wake up, little boy,” he claimed he’d heard a voice in the darkness say. “Daddy’s looking for you.” The couple thought he was having nightmares, until they went to check on him one night and heard the voice too. “Look, someone’s coming,” it said as they entered their son’s room. A hacker had taken control of their baby monitor, the kind you can check through an app on your smartphone.

The popularity of internet-connected security cameras, locks and home alarms has skyrocketed despite regular reports that the systems are easily hijacked. A family in Houston was horrified to learn that a live feed from the webcam in their 8-year-old daughters’ room had been streaming online. The girl’s mother found out only when a woman in Oregon happened across the livestream and decided to contact the family. A security company determined that hackers were able to gain access to the webcam while the young victim was playing the online videogame Minecraft.

Government spying is a further privacy concern raised by the Internet of Things. In early 2017, WikiLeaks released a trove of documents purportedly revealing the Central Intelligence Agency’s ability to hack your internet-enabled television and turn it into a listening device. The same document dump indicated that the CIA has targeted Apple, designing malware that can infect “factory fresh” iPhones and snoop on users’ texts, phone and FaceTime calls, and internet searches. “Siri, why do I feel like I’m being watched?” READ MORE

Analysis: If you thought the tracking of your cell phone's location was an invasion of privacy, you ain't seen nothing yet, as this article indicates. IoT (as the Internet of Things is abbreviated in the industry) will make plain-old location privacy concerns seem quaint in comparison. Just imagine that EVERYTHING you interact with, or are even nearby, will be able to monitor and track you, AND report that to practically anything or anyone else on the internet. Scared yet? If you are not, you should be.

How do deal with this threat? Three ways: 1) Regulatory, with something like Europe's "intrusive" laws specifically addressing IoT concerns. Call your Congressperson!; 2) Buy "dumb" devices that can't connect to the Internet, while you still can (you've got maybe a year at most before everything from refrigerators to office furniture becomes IoT-capable), and 3) Pay close attention to EVERY product and service provider's Privacy Policy (including their Terms and Conditions) before you opt-in, register, or even just put your name on an email mailing list. All of these are a pain, for different reasons. But absolutely necessary if you don't want to be tracked at every turn. We can already put together 80-90% of your life just from your cell phone records (a statistic I confirm every time I do a criminal case cell phone forensics analysis); with the Internet of Things it will become 98-99%.

As a last recommendation "bonus": Assume every brand new product and service you sign up for from now on has the potential to monitor and track your behavior. It doesn't have to be an Echo-type device (though it will be a cold day before I buy one of these no matter how convenient, because of these privacy concerns), though those are the most obvious--it can (and will be) ANYTHING.


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