Security and standards dominated many of the discussions on Tuesday’s well attended one day event surrounding the Internet of Things. Recent well publicized hackings in the US and UK where thieves and security services hacked a device like an air-conditioner in order to get access to another control system obviously influenced the conversations. We gained some highlights by talking with two of the keynote speakers.
Francois Girodolle is head of European Product Partners at Nest. Based in Palo Alto California, they are best known for their smart thermostats and smoke detectors.
“The connected home as we know it has to evolve towards a thoughtful home. This means it does things FOR people, using data it collects to anticipate their needs. So the benefits are so much more than simply saving energy. It means using the technology for the people and not the other way round. We've been successful in launching our NEST learning thermostat because you don't need an instruction manual - it builds a calendar to heat the house based on your life style and is always adjusting to changes. And when you're not at home it knows that, turns things down and helps you make savings.”
“But imagine if our thermostat is able to talk to other devices in an anonymous and secure way. Like a set of Philips HUE lights in your home. So, for example, if you're not at home for more than one day, our thermostat could simulate "presence", controlling the lights to make it look as though you're home. So Philips HUE becomes more than a lighting product, it becomes a safety product. In fact the user doesn't have to go on the web to control the lights from a distance - devices in the home are able to anticipate a need. And there are plenty of other examples. We're working with car manufacturers so the navigation system in your car can tell our thermostat when you'll arrive home and set the temperature accordingly.”
“It is true that a lack of standards means that people need to buy a gateway device to control one set of devices, and another gateway controller for their sound system. We think that manufacturers should open up their API to other manufacturers, so we have cloud to cloud connections. But then we also need the proximity connection. The home area networks with WiFi, Bluetooth or ZigBee don't offer what we want. So we created a new protocol with six other manufacturers called THREAD. It does for low-power IoT devices what WiFi has done for everything else. And the protocol also cherry-picks from existing protocols so we're not reinventing the wheel.”
“We know that security is extremely important. It is not an option, it is essential for IoT because the home is the most private place on earth. And the consumer has to own their own data and understand who can have access to some or all of it. And those rights can always be revoked by the user.”
The challenge of big data and privacy was addressed by another keynote speaker Professor Gerrit-Jan Zwenne. He’s a lawyer with Bird & Bird in The Hague and a professor of law at Leiden University. He explained that more professions need to get involved in understanding the issues that IoT security raises. "If you want to become a data-protection lawyer these days, you need to know your stuff and understand what the technology is doing. If you can't communicate clearly with the engineers building Internet of Things devices and services, then this has huge implications in the way we organise society. I am optimistic that the current issues with IoT security will be solved within the industry. The sooner the better. But the issues surrounding privacy and data protection are far more complex and have wide ranging implications. It's a bit like oxygen. When you have it you don't notice it. But when you lose it, you suddenly realise you have a very serious problem. This is a huge challenge. We need a much better data protection act but we're only at very early stages of fully understanding how to improve it."