The “Internet of Things” is going to be huge. There’s no doubt about it. But until there’s a practical identity infrastructure in place it can never deliver on its promises.
My old chum Rory Cellan-Jones was out in Las Vegas for CES.
— Rory Cellan-Jones (@BBCRoryCJ) January 4, 2015
Now, this may seem to be amazing innovation, but I can remember plans for smart dog collars from many years ago, when Consult Hyperion was advising a Japanese company. The company had a projection that in a decade (i.e., roughly about now) only a third of “mobile phones” would be sold to people. They were expecting two-thirds of the devices with SIMs in them to be what we would now call smart devices or the “Internet of Things” and I can recall clearly that one of their mass-market use cases was for smart dog collars!
One of the things we discussed back then, and one of the things that we will carry on discussing for some time to come, I imagine, is how the security would work. Who is allowed to log on and see where your dog is? How do you give someone else permission to access your dog? Can your vet have a master key to see where you dog has been, how much exercise they have been getting? What about a system to track what other dogs have been in the vicinity of your dog? Should the local council have access to the records when they are trying to track down chavs who let their dogs shit in the street? (Yes. Ed.)
These are complicated and nuanced questions that include, for want of a better word, politics. There should be an engaged discussion with input from a variety of stakeholders on this: it shouldn’t be left to technologists like us to make arbitrary and capricious decisions about the configuration of the new infrastructure. Yet someone does have to make decisions or we cannot move forward.
After all, what is the purpose of billions of smart devices if they are unable to work together to create convenience and relevance? Without identity, the Internet of Things is just noise.
Now, this is hardly a new perspective. Industry observers have been making this point consistently over the last few years. To use an old industry aphorism, making doors is easy but making locks is hard. But locks are what we need to make for a workable ID for Internet of Things (IDIoT) scheme, and we need them soon.
The Internet of things, otherwise known as machine to machine (M2M) communication, is “out of control”, opening the door for disasters if someone doesn’t get a leash on it.
The lack of a security infrastructure, and in my narrow world view the lack of an identity infrastructure, is undermining economic development. I wrote recently about the idea of bringing together blockchains and the IoT into an “identiverse” and I think that this presents a fantastic business opportunity for some of our clients, which is why I’ll keep going on about it.