The Internet of Things is not new, though it is certainly evolving. The sheer number of devices poses a problem for internet addressing since IPv4 was designed in 1971 to serve a global network of mainframe computers, but never anticipated the personal computer, the growth of ISPs, the mobile phone and the potential for every appliance, every light bulb, autonomous vehicles and so many other items to talk together over the internet. IPv6 will provide 340 trillion trillion trillion internet addresses.
Speaking at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Lecture #7 The Coming Age of the Internet of Things (November 4, 2015), Vint Cerf posed a number of questions that need to be addressed as a new generation of devices come online. Others participating in a subsequent discussion panel included, Deborah Estrin, Professor, Computer Science, Cornell Tech and Co-Founder, Open mHealth and Beth Simone Noveck, Jerry Hultin Global Network Professor, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Director, The Governance Lab.
The presentation and the panel explored some of the issues around the Internet of Things. Imagine devices collecting health data or collecting traffic data. Questions arise about the security of that data, the privacy and integrity of the data; and access to it for research. If your health data needs to be shared with the doctor and it is wrong or it’s been maliciously altered, there’s a risk to your health. If you share your medical history in an emergency, how do you revoke access to it after the event? What happens to the data after it’s collected? The bits of data may still have integrity, but will the software to read it be obsolete? When data is collected will it be controlled by a municipality or a company that uses it for its own purposes or will it be made available for study? What new business opportunities arise and what will be some of the benefits of this new technology?
A good overview of the technology and its consequences is given on the SUNY Cortland Internet of Things website. This site has brief sections on the advantages and disadvantages, ethical considerations, a brief history of the development of the internet and projections of the future.
With all this reliance on the internet, what happens when the system comes to a halt? Apparently this is not a new question and one that Vint Cerf has given some thought to.