THE Internet of Things (IoT) is set to revolutionise our lives, but one of its foremost proponents has warned that it could easily become a nightmare unless steps are taken to make sure that people’s personal data is properly secured.
Simon Montford, an industry specialist who is the brain behind Web3//IOT, which helps tech entrepreneurs, was speaking at the inaugural digital festival Techaus, in Glasgow, about how the IoT and devices that make our world more “connected” could make our lives easier.
He told The National there were many positives to burgeoning connectivity, with smart devices that could monitor industry, for instance, and help reduce emissions and our carbon footprint. Similarly, transport systems in “smart cities” could also become far less polluting.
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Montford said that with an ageing population there would come a stage where we would run out of caring staff to look after them, but using artificial intelligence-driven robots could help fill that void.
However, he added that data security was a primary concern as technology develops. Robust systems would have to be put in place to protect the massive amount of personal data smart devices harvest.
“Products like fitness trackers that also monitor your sleep, temperature, heart rate and so on are almost medical-grade devices and they process an incredible amount of very personal data,” he said.
“Where is that going to be stored? If you take the ageing population example, with such devices being in people’s personal space 24/7, the robot carer could remind someone living on their own when to take their medicine. Or it could alert a carer if the person has a fall.
“But it could get to a point where people feel they’re being spied on and if their data is exploited then there would be a huge backlash against the technology.”
Montford said the General Data Protection Regulations that were passed by the European Parliament this year proposed fines of tens of billions of euros for companies found to have breached them.
It was better than penalties that were “a slap on the wrist”, but he said people could do more to avoid their data landing in the wrong hands by taking back control.
“Last month’s cyberattack that shut down a huge part of the internet in America is believed to have used millions upon millions of smart devices whose processing power combined to make a giant supercomputer to mount the attack.
“Many of these machines were accessed because their default password hadn’t been changed from when they were installed.
“Manufacturers should be held responsible for making sure that their devices are shipped with a password that has to be set by the user – it has to be changed before they can use it so they are not as easy to hijack.”
Techaus was organised by Mark Muir, from Digital Media Meet-up and James Jefferson (JJ), chief creative officer and co-founder of the digital agency Equator.
JJ said they had developed good connections with colleges and other institutions, and it was hoped the event would become a major event on Scotland’s digital calendar.
He said: “The businesses and sectors we are in are innovating so fast the structure of educational modules is unable to keep up, so we’ve been working with colleges to try to build entrepreneurship programmes and the like.
“Our goal is to create a network so that by the time the students’ main learning part is finished, they’ve already built up a network to move more easily into the world of work.”