Imagine, a traffic system that dynamically controls traffic based on live feeds gotten from integrated cameras and sensors. Surely, this would control traffic more efficiently, get people off the road safely and faster to their various destination. This traffic system is driven by the IoT technology.
In Nigeria today, one of the controls implemented at various intersections on our roads is the traffic light system - to prevent accidents and control the movement of vehicles. This method of managing and controlling traffic on the road is not efficient as Programmable Logic Circuits at the heart of this system are preset (with specific values) to determine when vehicles are to Stop, Ready or Move (Go).
Imagine, a traffic system that dynamically controls traffic based on live feeds gotten from integrated cameras and sensors. Surely, this would control traffic more efficiently, get people off the road safely and faster to their various destination. This traffic system is driven by the IoT technology. Already, smart traffic control systems exist in developed countries around the world – for instance, an Intelligent Traffic System implemented in Tyler, Texas, was reported to have reduced traffic delays by 22%. Going by this statistics, leveraging on the technology that IoT provides in the area of transportation will help reduce the traffic challenges in urbanized cities in Nigeria such as Lagos.
So, what is Internet of Things (IoT)? Basically, this is a network of physical “things” embedded with sensors and connected to the Internet. With IoT technology, devices are able to communicate and share data between one another without manual intervention. Also, the technology enables physical objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across networks, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computers.
The opportunities to be derived from the adoption of IoT are enormous. Some areas of application of this technology are in Health, Home and City, Transportation, Manufacturing, Consumer and Retail Businesses, etc.
For each of these areas, embracing the IoT technology means that more devices will be connected to the internet. A study conducted by KPMG revealed that in 2015, there were 13.2 billion connected devices, a figure that is expected to exceed 25 billion by the year 2020. This increase in the number of connected devices will translate to more market revenue for the manufacturers and service providers of the connected devices, as well as companies operating in the telecommunication industry such as Internet Service Providers.
In homes and cities, IoT technologies can be leveraged to achieve production and deployment of smart meters – necessary to drive efficient use of energy. Other areas of application are in home automation, smart management of city infrastructure, security surveillance, water supply, and sewage disposal.
In transportation, application of IoT can be utilized in achieving connected vehicles, self-driving cars, smart infrastructure, public transportation, aviation and sea faring. Also, the application of IoT can enable the establishment of a smart car park.
In manufacturing and operations, the IoT technology can be leveraged in Industrial Controls, Health and Safety Management, Supply Chain optimization (using RFID and GIS technology), etc. For consumer and retail businesses, this technology can assist to improve efficiency in in-store localization and improved customer experience.
One of the biggest challenges confronting the technology industry today is security. While it is important to acknowledge the advantages that IoT promises, it is equally essential to be aware of the security challenges and risks inherent in this technology, given that it fundamentally involves connected devices over the internet. Many cyber attacks have been successful on IoT and many are still occurring as of this moment. The more connected our world becomes, the higher the potential of attacks – this is a concern that security researchers have continued to express.
IoT, like any other technology innovation has widened the attack surface. The reason for this is obvious – some of the connected devices have weak security protections while others are poorly configured.
Recently, A French based hosting company, OVH suffered a record high 1.1 Tbps Distributed Denial of service (DDoS) attack, an attack that was made possible by hackers using Command & Control servers to hijack weakly configured connected IoT devices.
The security threat to an improperly implemented home automation system could lead to unauthorised access and operations in the home or apartment by cyber criminals. Cyber security researchers at the University of Michigan, USA were able to compromise a home automation system – giving them access to the security PIN code to gain access into the home.
Given the security threat that IoT poses, many organisations around the world are now thinking more clearly about how they might improve IoT security. Bridget Karlin, Managing Director, Internet of Things Group Intel was quoted as saying “At Intel, we believe that integrating security into the platform and into the silicon is critical to helping drive IoT’s adoption and scalability. Integrating security at the onset is key to establishing trust for IoT solutions”.
In conclusion, while adopting IoT technology in areas such as transportation, health, manufacturing, home and cities would assist to improve the ease of doing business, deliver better traffic management, introduce comfort in homes and improved efficiency in company operations. Emphasis must be put in ensuring that connected devices are properly configured and the security risks associated with implementing the devices are identified and appropriate measures to mitigate them are in place. Effective IoT security will only lead to increased adoption of this technology – which is what we all want.
This article is an excerpt from our Thought Leadership document "Building Cyber Security & Resilience in a Digital Africa" . Click the link below to download the publication.
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