The Internet of Things and Security


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For several years, the term ‘Internet of Things’ has been growing in familiarity. The initial example used to illustrate the concept was the idea of a fridge that was able to let you know when you have run out of milk. Very ‘Tomorrow’s World’. When everyday household objects contain microchips and sensors and are networked together, we will, in theory, arrive at a place when all aspects of life become far more automated, organised and simplified.

The Internet of Things is no longer just a crazy idea, it’s actually here. It may not be all around us yet, but heating you can control from outside the home, waste bins that email to let you know when they’re full, and sensors in Nike trainers that connect with your iPod to automatically select tunes to suit your morning jog shows how easily these things are accepted when they arrive. The highly capable Apple ‘Watch’ shows that while we are nowhere near the Marty McFly hoverboards and flying cars vision of 2015 shown in Back to the Future II, technology and highly adept applications are well established. They impress when introduced, but they don’t really shock because we’ve come to expect innovative thinking and the slow creep of technological progress.

So where next for the Internet of Things in relation to the world of security? What can we expect to see in the next decade as microprocessors continue to shrink and become more powerful, and as the world around us becomes increasingly networked?

The world of security is actually well advanced down this particular road, and in many ways has been a pathfinder in integrated networked technology for many years. Remote and independent intruder sensors that trigger alarms and which send automated telephone calls impress nobody anymore. This is all standard stuff for security in 2015. And as the technology becomes smaller, more capable and networked, buildings and other sites are increasingly ‘sensor aware’. Since the arrival of such technology the role for the security management has been largely to act as systems monitor and to make the executive decision on what, if any, response is needed from the data triggered or picked up by sensors and cameras.

But of course, the permeation of integrated technology into the world around us is spreading all the time, often in ways we can’t have envisaged only a few years ago.

Clothing is one exciting area of possibility. The idea of ‘smart clothing’ and ‘smart materials’ has been mooted for some time. The technology is already available; it’s just waiting for the applications to develop the market. But what if a building or site was able to sense and register a person’s clothing as they entered, and to monitor exactly where they were, and when they left the site? What a bonus that would be for accurate monitoring of personnel and visitors. If a person was sensed to be in an area they shouldn’t be, they could be immediately questioned.

That same technology would of course be featured in the clothing of security operatives, and the networked sensors and cameras around the site would be able to guide the operative to exactly where they need to be and when. The system would even know when he or she were on lunch, on a toilet break, or otherwise indisposed and would be able to direct other operatives to incidents. It would even help with timekeeping as the idea of clocking or signing in becomes redundant when a site can detect an operative’s arrival and departure. While it might seem a tad Big Brother to talk in these terms, the advantages to effective delivery of security are clear.

Perhaps, when faced with such ubiquitous technology and monitoring, we need to start to get away from talk of Big Brother. After all, society has relaxed somewhat with the proliferation of CCTV – a technology which, more than any other has been synonymous with Big Brother concerns. It is doubtful whether we will ever again see such discomfort surrounding security technologies.

Vehicles are already often fitted with trackers and this data could also feed into the site security system. We could even see a time when it will be impossible to start a vehicle by anyone not wearing the correct clothing or uniform.

None of these ideas will cause discomfort and none are beyond the realms of current possibility. They are simple inevitability once the world gets around to the tedious task of putting the networking infrastructure in place to allow all these microchips to speak to each other. Perhaps the real challenge is to try and predict the developments we can’t currently envisage. But one thing is certain, the Internet of Things is certainly going to improve security and we should embrace it.

As published in Risk UK www.risk-uk.com

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