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Politicians Take Notice of the Internet of Things

Feb. 19, 2015

Nervous politicians are never a good thing. But that is what we had when the US Senate recently held a hearing on security around the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things popped up on the radar of the US Senate recently when several articles in the mainstream press around consumer sensors made politicians nervous. In fact, as eWeek reported last week, the senate even held a hearing on Internet of Things security.

This particular hearing concentrated on the consumer side of Internet of Things, most likely because these folks (and even their more technologically savvy staffers) haven't heard much about the Industrial Internet of Things, which we concentrate on here at Smart Industry. The Senate, in this case, was worried about the developing industry of smart devices from refrigerators to televisions and even coffee makers -- and making sure the industry is sensitive when using the data they will be collecting about us. 

While they concern themselves with issues like consumer privacy around smart devices, it would certainly make sense for policy makers to think about sensors that could control oil pipelines, wind turbines and airplane engines -- and it probably won't be long before these more tricky sensor issues come to the fore.

The industry might want to take this as a signal that security around sensors is growing in importance, and people are paying attention, especially in the light of high-profile hacks at Anthem and Sony in recent months. That's why companies working on sensor technology should have security top of mind as they design smart sensors and the software that controls them, as well as the big data tools that help make sense of it all.

The industry might want to consider setting up committees and working together to establish standard ways of securing these devices and figuring out ways to make sure they are developed without the kinds of vulnerabilities we have seen on other networks recently. This is especially crucial when you consider how important some of the industrial systems are and what could happen if hackers were able to exploit them. 

That's the worst case scenario of course, and it makes good headlines even to speculate on something like that, but as sensors begin to collect more data on some of the world's most critical devices, governments and citizens are going to want assurances they are secure.

At the Senate hearing last week, a lot of the discussions centered around news reports, rather than conversations with industry experts. As awareness about sensors grows, the public is worried, whether we are talking commercial or industrial applications.

Regardless, people are beginning to notice sensors, and it pays to think about the kinds of issues that concern governments and individuals early in the evolution of these devices.

Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, enterprise reporter at TechCrunch and Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. He has been writing about technology since 1988 when he began working as a technical writer. Past gigs include FierceContentManagement, CITEworld, Computerworld, TechTarget and many others. He co-founded socmedianews.com (originally socmedia101.com) in 2009 and contributes regularly to its content. You can learn more by visiting his blog, by Ron Miller at http://byronmiller.typepad.com.

Photo Credit: Chris Isherwood on Flickr. Used under CC by SA 2.0 license.