So over the past few years, we've been hearing more and more about the internet of things, but what is it, really? We know that the devices are small, do stuff in your house, are cheap, and are really insecure. That's about it, though. So what are these things?
Well, we can divide IoT into either consumer of business facing technology. Consumer-facing technology consists of the kinds of things you usually think of when you think IoT — thermostats, smart plugs, cameras, things like that. Business facing technology is somewhat different. It can certainly include consumer style devices, but it also encompasses things like medical devices, cyber-physical systems (a fancy name for things like remote controlled valves, pumps, and switches), and smart grid-enabled systems. Some of the functions are the same, sure, but the scale is vastly different. A Nest thermostat may control the environment in a house. The business analog is part of a system that controls the environment in a skyscraper. Or a warehouse. Or a stadium.
And those are only the devices you see — what about protocols? Data hubs? Or the storage, services, and algorithms that need to be build to enable you to control that thermostat from your phone? and what about the app itself?
IoT is thought of as just the devices you see, but it encompasses all of this. And this is important to realize.
I usually write about and work in cybersecurity, on a variety of scales. I spend most of my in-depth engineering time in the mobile cybersecurity space today, as well as IoT clients. But the value of IoT is not in the clients — not at all. The value is in the systems, end-to-end. If one part of those systems isn't working, that value is gone. If the apps don't work well, customers won't buy the devices. If the algorithmics are shoddy, customers won't trust the results. And if one of these subsystems are insecure, someone can compromise the whole thing.
When you're building or working with these kinds of systems, it's important that you take a systemic perspective. If you don't, your competition (or worse, someone like me) will.