CES: Emerging Opportunities and Equally Growing Risk of IoT

The Internet of Things will grow larger once again at CES 2016 with both incremental and innovative advances in objects, systems and simplicity, but for the entertainment industry the past year should also serve as a cautionary tale. Smart home sensors that track and analyze movements to enable new levels of seamless interaction will impact both the home and the world at large. Security will likely become an increasing concern as the infrastructure is created to effectively connect devices and systems.

Small companies like Aerial will show AC outlet plugins that track every movement within a home. Others will show increasingly simple devices to integrate the wide range of control standards connecting light bulbs, locks, speakers and windows in an attempt to grow the market beyond the brave.

Media integration is a likely first consumer foray into this world with wireless individual speakers and whole house systems a notable area of interest. Lighting is perhaps next on the list for wide use with smart bulbs both dropping in cost and growing performance in color purity and efficiency to new highs.

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As the goal turns to locks and monitoring, new concerns will likely prove more of an impediment to growth than having to solve the problem of two divergent lighting control protocols with a new device like the Staples or Motorola “does them all” boxes. In these areas, security will be a challenge and present sadly ample room for embarrassing breaches.

Innovation in the Smart Entertainment sector of this home revolution is often occurring in companies with scant experience in the ever-developing canon of appropriate security practices. This exciting innovation can prove to be a source of real pain for customers and risk for their media partners’ reputations.

VTech suffered a massive data breach of 5 million accounts including many with a year’s worth of chat logs and accompanying photographs. The new smartphone-connected doll Cayla was hacked live on BBC TV. The Wi-Fi version of Barbie will no doubt be a hacker’s target some day.

While many IOT devices for consumers concentrate on one specialized control action or ability, the open-ended nature of entertainment/play experiences reveal much more about the behavior and life facts of loved ones who likely cannot protect themselves.

Independent security folks are now recommending 15 to 20 second intervals of continuous network monitoring of all connected devices on a company’s network in stark contrast with the federal standards suggesting a sweep each one to three days. While connected toys seem to be an early natural for licensing of entertainment properties, we’ll be asking each supplier we highlight what advanced approaches they are employing to protect their customers and the reputations of their partners in the light of a year that exposed lack of expertise and caution in these new areas of risk.

That said, while there will be incremental advances in many areas of connected homes and robotics perhaps the most significant long term innovation will be in the sensor monitoring area since these inputs will allow many things to be determined locally (a path that Apple is suggesting) and might contribute to less necessity to share data to gain real benefit for the user.

Cisco, Accenture, Arkessa, BT, Telensa and WSN board members of the Wireless IoT Forum hope to stop fragmentation and encourage consolidation around a minimal set of standards. Hopefully, we’ll see more specifics as groups such as this address cyber crime prevention.

We look forward at CES 2016 to seeing better automated understanding of people’s wants and needs by home systems and more attention to protecting the information we trust to companies to accomplish that goal.