Internet of Things – Opportunity or Threat?

This event was the first in a series of sessions the Sphere Network will be holding to discuss the growth of IoT and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).

Facilitated by Charles Sellers, and hosted by Northumbria University, the event was a sell out and we had a full house in lecture room A110 in the Ellison Building.

We were joined by two speakers for the evening – Steve Cammish of ADLINK Technology and Mark Steele of Reevu World Wide – to give us two very different perspectives on whether rapid developments in the field of IoT and IIoT posed an opportunity or threat to business and to society.

Time to change the focus of the Internet of Things?

ADLINK are currently working across the globe, installing hardware into smart factories. They are dealing with a huge number of unconnected devices that are all working with different controllers and to different protocols.

Steve’s view is that the real opportunity for IoT comes not from the technology, or hardware, but from the application of the data that can be collected from myriad pieces of hardware.

ADLINK has spotted a gap in the market and is offering ‘Digital Experiments as a Service’, or DXS. They are actively unlocking the data from their clients’ hardware and creating value from the data. Their job is to bring analogue devices into the ‘data stream’ – data must be able to flow into the open data river, and for this to happen, the data  must be normalised, and be open source.

The implementation of IoT involves a culture change – firms need to be agile and quick to take advantage of the opportunities, but also be aware of how they can create maximum value from the use of the data they now have access to.

This also requires a range of data transmission techniques, including Bluetooth, 4G and 5G. Advances in how data is transmitted are enabling ADLINK to shift massive volumes of data, and advances in 5G are having a big impact in the smart factories ADLINK work with in Asia.

Time to slow down the 5G revolution?

5G is not a simple acceleration of the current 4G system but a new technology which enables much greater volumes of data to be transmitted. Mark Steele voiced concerns around the potential negative impact of 5G technology on both the natural environmental and on people’s physical and mental health. Mark was clear that, as with any technological advancement, 5G should be fully risk assessed before mass adoption. Health effects are still under investigation (International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 2018).

A more practical concern is that as improved data technology enables greater adoption of IoT devices in the home, there is a need for suppliers to ensure their devices are safe both physically and technically. Cyber security is a significant issue with smart devices, and with 5G as more high-value data is moved around. Government and industry have a responsibility to ensure that the opportunity of the Internet of Things does not detract from rigorous testing and consumer safety.

So why are we doing this? What is the future roadmap for IoT?

Expanding the discussion

A discussion amongst the audience proved that the subject of IoT was far reaching and requires a lot more in-depth consideration.

In terms of the opportunities afforded by IoT, what are the most appropriate uses for the technology to help with the problems we are trying to solve with the environment, health and the wider economy? What is the psychological impact of having access to such huge amounts of data, and how can we ensure that the data gets used in a good way?

Could we potentially be creating ‘data lakes’ or ‘data oceans’ full of data that never gets used, and has no real use, or are we able to look at data use in a new light and start thinking about the ethical consumption of data? Can we push data and computing to the Edge, rather than the Cloud, and look at creating more efficient ways of storing and transmitting data that negates the need for higher bandwidth and 5G?

These are all really interesting questions, and Sphere Network will be organising future events to try and explore these themes in more detail. If you’re interested in getting involved, please do get in touch.

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