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When everything is digital

The “Internet of Things” is a computing technology concept describing a world connected by networks and the Internet. But more than simply connecting people, as the current Internet does, it connects machines (things). In the not so distant future where the Internet of Things is the standard, machines interface (or talk to) one another with little or no human involvement. This should supposedly make our lives easier.

By the year 2020, it is estimated that between 26 to 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet. And we’re talking not just phones and computers and the so-called smart wearables. Cisco Systems describes the scenario as “when the Internet and networks expand to places such as manufacturing floors, energy grids, healthcare facilities, and transportation.”

LiveScience says that the Internet of Things will potentially include milk cartons with sensors that send signals to the owner or the retailer (ex. grocery store) when the container is almost empty; computer chips implanted under the skin to track vitals and send real-time health information to patients and healthcare providers; sensors on infrastructure to alert concerned agencies on their structural integrity and repair needs; and smart appliances that function by themselves.

Everything will be run by apps, oftentimes automatically. Most of which—in the case of home appliances, these are ovens, faucets, security systems, lighting fixtures and padlocks—may be operated using a single device, like a smartphone or digital interfaces that respond to touch and/or voice commands.

Things in the Internet of Things will be very smart and intuitive. Consumer electronics will learn, through per-assigned settings and continued use, how warm you want your bathwater to be, how loud you want the music to be at specific times of the day, how many eggs to order from the supermarket, and how often your prized orchids should be watered. All your data will be stored in the cloud.

The Internet of Things is not a theory. It exists today, according to Microsoft, “in the devices, sensors, cloud infrastructure, and data and business intelligence tools you are already using.”

Because all these things are connected to the Internet and consumer data is tracked to supposedly improve the services, privacy seems nonexistent when your devices are on the grid. In January, cybersecurity writer Joseph Steinberg warned in a Forbes article that, even at home, “innocent-looking devices may be spying on you, or performing other nefarious actions.”

Attackers can potentially track your behavior and movement (sometimes, audio-visually) with these devices—TVs, gaming systems, smart appliances, webcams and basically every item that you use to make your life easier—and make your life a living hell.

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