We need to be paranoid about our data, Web Summit told

Buzzwords abound at the Summit but none come close to ‘Internet of Things’

Gary Bloom, Chief Executive Officer and President of database technology firm MarkLogic: “Imagine a city that could be taken over by a hacker.”

Gary Bloom, Chief Executive Officer and President of database technology firm MarkLogic: “Imagine a city that could be taken over by a hacker.”

 

Don’t play the Internet of Things (IoT) drinking game at this year’s Web Summit. You’ll be on the floor before lunch. It’s the buzzword du jour much to the frustration of those who have been working with this tech for years.

By the time a panel of experts had gathered to talk about the future of smart cities, Irishman and vice president of the Internet of Things (IoT) Group at Intel, Philip Moynagh, had a few things to say about it: “This IoT phrase is thrown around so often that you become immune to it but it’s already been around for decades.”

“I’d argue that the first IoT instance of note was the Apollo space programme; a lot of the technological and communications capabilities we take for granted now were developed for this.”

The only reason the Internet of Things pops up in almost every tech talk now is because it’s finally affordable, secure enough and manageable enough that it can go mainstream, said Moynagh.

So those who are worried that connected smart cities are based on new, unstable and insecure technologies can rest easy: “We’re not making this shit up as we go along,” he added.

However, the issue of security is persistent. Gary Bloom, Chief Executive Officer and President of database technology firm MarkLogic warned the audience that a smart city requires secure data: “Imagine a city that could be taken over by a hacker.”

At least he didn’t go into SkyNet territory; Moynagh wouldn’t have been impressed. “It’s odd that so many IoT smart city conversations roll into the Terminator [SCENARIO]. We have long had secure methods for encryption,” he said, adding that it is no different to passing credit card data into the cloud on a daily basis and we’ve been comfortable with this for a while now.

Moynagh even went as far as to say that citizens of a smart city should be required to give up biometric data such as their heart rate because this data is anonymised and will help develop a better city environment for healthier citizens.

“It ain’t scary; we need to be healthily paranoid [about our data] but it shouldn’t get in the way,” he commented.

Bay McLaughlin, co-founder of IoT platform Brinc.io chimed in with similar sentiments: “The Internet of Things is no more vulnerable than technology already is. It is not going to become more vulnerable just because your toaster or you bed are connected. [The security issue] is no different than it has been for decades.”

And perhaps we need to become more comfortable with the idea of being connected to all things around us as Karl Martin, founder and CTO of smartband company Nymi suggests. Nymi is a smartband that aims to replace passwords and logins; it is what he calls ‘wearable authentication’.

“We seems to be entering passwords, pin codes and tokens over and over again hundreds of times a day. This seems centuries behind the hyperconnectivity we experience. Why not make authentication wearable and persistent; put it on the body and add layers around this.”

“If you’re going to be connected to everything around you in the smart city we need to establish trust and we’re looking at people as that first mile of trust,” he said.