The increasing ubiquity of the internet of things has put a new focus on data privacy. To many, the digital internet still isn’t as real as the outside world. At the same time, big data is all very well when it’s harvested quietly and stealthily. However, when your things tattle on you behind your back, it’s a very different matter altogether.
Think ahead to the time when everything is smart, and everything is networked—when computing has diffused out into our environment. Imagine for a moment if there were a computer in literally every object in your house. In your office. In your neighborhood. Imagine computers were blowing in the wind. Imagine if they were literally everywhere.
The phrase “data exhaust” will no longer be a figure of speech; it’ll be a literal statement. Your data will exist in a halo of devices surrounding you, tasked with providing you with sensor and computing support as you walk along. Calculating constantly, consulting with each other, predicting, anticipating your needs. You’ll be surrounded by a web of distributed sensors, computing, and data.
The current rush to connect devices to the internet has led to sloppy privacy and sloppy security. This situation can’t continue, because if everything is smart, everything will soon be measuring, calculating, and weighing your life. Big data will be distributed and ubiquitous. Suddenly its not just your email or the photographs of your cat but your heart rate, your respiration rate, and how you slept—and with whom—the night before.
The internet of things is coming. Alasdair Allan explains why it brings with it a whole new set of big data problems that can’t be ignored.
Alasdair Allan is a director at Babilim Light Industries and a scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. An expert on the internet of things and sensor systems, he’s famous for hacking hotel radios, deploying mesh networked sensors through the Moscone Center during Google I/O, and for being behind one of the first big mobile privacy scandals when, back in 2011, he revealed that Apple’s iPhone was tracking user location constantly. He has written eight books, and writes regularly for Hackster.io, Hackaday, and other outlets. A former astronomer, he also built a peer-to-peer autonomous telescope network that detected what was, at the time, the most distant object ever discovered.
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