I recently went to a small speech that was being held about IoT. I guess I think less of IoT in the marketing speech and more in the implementation.
What someone might call a smart device or IoT is what I might consider as just adding a computer to an ordinary device (running shoes, clothing, garage opener, etc) – but I am getting off topic.
It was a very interesting speech that summed up a lot of the technologies that I have heard about as well as some of the protocols that I have not. Yet, what was more interesting was the anecdotal stories about what smart devices really can do.
A friend of mine had a smart phone that was not running one of the big two operating systems. He was from Hungry and he downloaded a keyboard app, which presumably made the phone that much more comfortable to use. One day he saw that this app had an upgrade – this upgrade needed access to quite a few new permissions. These permissions were a bit non-sequitur and because it didn’t make any sense that his keyboard app has access to his contacts he simply did not install the upgrade.
Intuitively, I should have thought that the new app wanted to mine through his data and sell either it directly or amalgamate it with the other data which is sold.
From what I heard in my IoT meeting, this is the other somewhat less transparent way that these app providers are using to fund their efforts. (Just when I thought that popup advertising was bad)
A couple of examples were given in the IoT speech. The smart phone is a really powerful device and it includes accelerators, GPS and the ability to report back. One company was using this additionally captured information in San Francisco as a method of tracking parking spaces. The device can tell from a general profile when cars are parking and where they are. This provided infrastructure for a parking assistance service. This information isn’t really so secret but when it is obtained in the background it could be considered a bit creepy.
The second example was somewhat less clear but it about tracking the devices in a given area. This particular area was a large bank building, and by tracking the number of devices in that particular area they could estimate the number of the people who (probably) worked at the particular bank. This is quite interesting to other investors, banks or hedge funds to determine how productive the bank is.
The cool thing for the app makes is that their terms of service or explicit listing of which functions will be available to them makes it perfectly legal. After all, who reads all of the terms of service for every app or program? Who can be overly distressed by knowing that your app uses the network. Of course it does, how else can it get fresh weather data?
Perhaps it is this lack of transparency from devices or app which helps to show just how transparent we the consumer are in the internet age. It isn’t all that encouraging to know that our devices are blabbing about our behavior and what is worse is that we are enabling them to do it.