The Internet of Things part 2 – a UKTMF update

The Internet of Things at the UK Test Management Forum.

Today (30th July) I was at the UKTMF in London, run by Paul Gerrard – soon to be run with assistance from a group calling ourselves ‘Friends of the Forum’.

Mike Bartley (CEO at TVS) did a superb talk on the Internet of Things, focussing on the functional testing side, whilst Declan O’Riordan talked about the security needs.

The IoT is going to be a phrase that we hear a lot about. In fact it would not be an understatement to say that it is going to revolutionise the way in which we live.

It’s definition is “Interconnectivity of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing internet structure”.

Up until now, interaction with the internet is done by humans, via computers, smart phones, tablets etc. The IoT moves on a stage further, to devices which connect and pass information without human intervention.

A great example that Mike shared was a smart fridge. A bottle of milk will contain information regarding the type of milk, how much is in the carton and its sell-by date. The fridge will scan and send the information to a server. An app on a device will the receive a message from the server when the milk has reached a certain level, or has been used up, or has passed it’s sell-by date, telling the homeowner that he or she needs to buy milk. Of course it may be that an automatic order is placed instead, and milk is delivered before the person knew he or she needed it!

That’s just one example – another is the use of driverless cars (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28551069) for the story. It’s a great idea, but of course there will be concerns around safety, but by far the greatest concern for us as humans is privacy and security.

The BBC ran another story today about apps that control home devices being easy to hack into (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28569342). Nobody wants a burglar to hack into an app that contains information about the householder being on holiday! There are other considerations as well – if a fridge can tell you when to buy more milk, that can apply to other foods as well – e.g. beer. Could we be in a position where the app tells us we have drunk too much beer this week? Or passes this information on to insurance companies (who put up premiums), the health service (who may refuse treatment) and goodness knows who else, where we really will live in a 1984 style ‘nanny state’ with no privacy. 

The IoT has amazing potential, but sadly like any new invention, it won’t take long for someone to spoil it by using it for evil purposes. Look at how long it took from the first airplane flight to planes being used to drop bombs and kill people! therefore our privacy and security have to be baked in, and this is where Declan raised an important point – the usual way of doing something new is to build, test, release, get hacked, go back and add security, and play catch-up.

If we are going to do this properly and learn the lessons of the past, we have to build in security from the beginning, otherwise it’ll be yet another great invention that people do not feel they can trust. Remember, this will not just be about someone hacking into your Facebook account or worse, your bank account – this is information about the way you run your whole life will be going backwards and forwards. Where you shop, what you buy, your habits, your hobbies, your car and journeys you make, when you are on holiday etc. We really cannot afford to get this wrong!

It is a subject that for some reason has grabbed me, so I will be delving into this a lot more.

Mike Bartley – http://www.testandverification.com/about-tvs/tvs-team/dr-mike-bartley/

 

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