About every other year, a colleague and I attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Yes, we have some fun, but the primary intent is to pick up on industry trends for future technologies coming to a workspace near you. For those not familiar CES, it is the largest trade show in the world, with close to 20,000 exhibitors displaying all manner of devices and technologies to 150,000 industry attendees. It runs for 4 days and if you don’t dawdle, you can just about walk the whole show by the time it ends; sore feet notwithstanding.
So, what’s new? The major themes this year were smart homes and devices, self-driving cars, drones, and 3D printing. Every time we attend, we see products and services ranging from the sublime to the (very) ridiculous. Some of the more notable items were:
So, what’s the message for those who quietly toil away in the IT back roads of Canada? Do we really care about the glitz and bling of these latest gadgets? The answer is a definite yes. Ten years ago, the average household had 2 computing gadgets; today, that number is closer to 25. In just a few years, the estimated number could be in the hundreds. Soon, everything you purchase for your home, car, or personal use will be smart.
“Once compromised, it is almost impossible to properly update or secure the device - you will most likely dispose of the cheaper ones.”
Smart devices are those that connect to the Internet (network) and offer some sort of remote monitoring or control: smart appliances, TVs, door locks, light bulbs, watches, even toothbrushes. These devices comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). It is a collection of devices (not under human control) that form part of your network. Smart devices pose two major problems for networks:
1. They take up Internet and Network bandwidth - as they communicate with the rest of the world, they each take a small piece of your limited Internet bandwidth and possibly your Wi-Fi. Most often, you have no control over how much bandwidth they take or when.
2. They pose security risks - the programming used to make these devices smart is hard-coded into the device. Manufacturers focus on the functionality of their devices - not security - to keep the device cost low. Additionally, all devices in a particular model-run are identical, perhaps millions of them. Thus, if a hacker targets a device, millions of devices are also potentially at risk. The attack could focus on taking control of the device, disabling it, destroying it, or using it as a gateway to the rest of the network. You won’t know until it happens. Once compromised, it is almost impossible to properly update or secure the device - you will most likely dispose of the cheaper ones.
So far, the focus has been on home devices. But smart devices will show up in our offices very shortly. We already see door locks, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, printers, and security cameras. Soon there will be coffee makers, fridges, and light bulbs. Imagine having your corporate network compromised by a light bulb.
It will be impossible to control the incursion of these devices into your corporate world. I can see a day when we will be recommending yet another independent and parallel network for the IoT. That could mean duplicate Internet connections, firewalls, switches, Wi-Fi, and possibly cabling to segregate these devices from your secure data network.
More complexity, more support, more money.
Do I really need my toothbrush to tell me when to floss? Please contact me or your primary tech if you would like more information on preparing for smart devices on your network.