CES: IoT holds promise but presents challenges

LAS VEGAS—The Internet of Things (IoT) was the topic at the International CES, as companies continue to connect homes, consumers and objects to each other using the cloud. IoT holds great promise for retailers and product manufucturers, many of which were in Las Vegas.

IoT will provide network connectivity for everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. For retailers, there will be a consumer component, such as the connection of household devices like televisions, appliances and computers, that will result in the sales of connected gear and connective equipment. But there also will be a business use where parts of the store, like refrigeration equipment, shelves and security systems, will be interconnected, as well as warehouse functions. This is expected to improve efficiency and productivity.

During CES 2015, Boo-Keun Yoon, president and CEO, Samsung Electronics, advocated for the future of the IoT and spoke of the need to focus it on people. Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, said there is a need at the design level to create connected devices that protect consumer security and privacy.

Yoon said Samsung will invest more than $100 million in the development of connected devices, according to USA Today. Samsung also will approach developers and competitors to create open standards so devices will work together.

"In creating an [IoT] market and realizing the IoT era, collaboration between all industries to enable barrier-less and seamless communication between devices is absolutely essential," Yoon said.

The new connected devices must be designed to fit consumers' lifestyles, Yoon said. "IoT must be and should be human-centric. We don't want to require consumers to adapt new behaviors or habits. This is something that will be naturally integrated into the everyday lives of consumers," he said.

Ramirez of the FTC spoke of the need to protect consumer data collected by network connected devices, including wearable fitness trackers and home gadgets. The agency will publish a report on the IoT in a few weeks, according to a FTC spokesperson.

In prepared remarks released prior to her speech, she wrote: "In the not-too-distant future, many, if not most, aspects of our everyday lives will be digitally observed and stored. That data trove will contain a wealth of revealing information that, when patched together, will present a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us."

The FTC has been looking into the data collection practices of technology companies, and she noted the ability of sensors to collect personal consumer data, unexpected uses of that data, and cybersecurity threats. More Internet-connected devices will increase the number of access points for hackers. "Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked," Ramirez said.

"I question the notion that we must put sensitive consumer data at risk on the off-chance a company might someday discover a valuable use for the information," she said. Ramirez urged technology companies to be more transparent about the way they use personal data, while simplifying their terms of use.

Ramirez also spoke of the upside of the IoT. "Whether it's a remote valet parking assistant, which allows drivers to get out of their cars and remotely guide their empty car to a parking spot; a new fashionable bracelet that allows consumers to check their texts and see reviews of nearby restaurants; or smart glucose meters, which make glucose readings accessible both to those afflicted with diabetes and their doctors, the IoT has the potential to transform our daily lives," she said.

For more:
-See this USA Today article
-See this ZDNet story
-See this New York Times blog post
-See this Wall Street Journal blog post

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