IS COVID — 19 THE NEEDED IGNITION FOR FULLY EMBRACING IOT?
Change remains the only constant factor in the world of science and innovation. Development of new theories, concepts and devices are a direct result of deliberate efforts of evaluating the existing status quo and deciding to improve it.
Covid — 19 has reset the world in many ways and disrupted the many comforts of a normal life. In such times, change becomes an inevitable course of path to travel and adapt to the effects of such tumultuous disruption that has ravaged its wild reach across every aspect of life.
Internet of things is the interconnection of computing devices, digital and mechanical machines and other objects over an internet network to communicate with each other without any human interaction. These devices and objects have chips and sensors enabled with wireless technologies
embedded in them to make them intelligent enough to keep data and make decisions based on how they are used. The propagators of this technology see it as a way of shifting the world from human interaction centered relationship with devices and objects to an autonomous interaction of the devices and
objects themselves which very minimal human influence as much as possible.
This computing concept has been in discussion from the 1980s by computer scientists and is only began seeing somelight of day in modern times. Even though it is now seeing some light, its challenges still remain a big
deal to overcome. Given the nature of covid — 19 and its way of infection, minimizing the touch of devices and objects can be one sure way to mitigate the spread of the covid virus and its dangers.
Hence, the question I am asking with this piece is that, looking at the concept, application and the potential effects of IoT on human lives, is covid — 19 the needed ignition for fully embracing IoT? Applications of IoT The application of IoT can be categorized into broad areas of consumer application, industrial application, Security application, and infrastructure application.
Consumer application of IOT known as CIoT is the connection of all consumer related devices and objects e.g. smart phones, refrigerators, watches, etc. that are connected to the internet to communicate with each other. There are many deployments to this category of IoT which can make life easier and reduce the human interaction with devices and objects many times in day.
Application of CIoT spans from smart Homes to wearable technologies to smart vehicles and smart business interactions. Smart Homes refer to connecting things like the lighting and water systems, alarm systems, doors
etc. together to communicate together and correspond with each other in their functions.Wearable technologies are watches, trainers and bracelets which are enabled with microchips, sensors and memory to give them some digital intelligence to collect data and communicate with other smart devices such as smart phones.
Smart vehicles like all other deployments are at various levels of their application but some of the most famous ones are those vehicles with sensors in the steering wheel to determine the fatigue level of the driver, inbuilt GPS maps, and other automatic safety features that communicate with
each other. Industrial application of IoT also known as IIoT is the industrial level application of IoT. IIoT spans from manufacturing to Agriculture, Transportation, etc. In the manufacturing process, IIoT allows machines communicate to other machines and seamlessly coordinate the manufacturing process from start to finish without human interaction.
The agricultural implementation has resulted in unattended irrigation and fertilizer application and the various automatic devices installed on farms to collect data such as weather and soil content to
improve the farmer’s analysis of the farm and crops and to further aid in research against automating farming operations and farm inputs.
Security application of IoT. The deepening of the fourth industrial revolution across the nations of the globe with its accompanying financial strength is morphing how nations protect themselves from external enemies and threats. The security application of IoT is how various nations seek to deploy IoT in their military and policing related activities such as surveillance, traffic laws enforcement, combat situations etc.
Infrastructure application of IoT.
Managing key infrastructure installations of energy, water and sanitation sites involve large numbers of human interactions. The infrastructure application of IoT seeks to automate the operating processes of such installations so machines and systems can
independently make intelligent decisions and automatically operate the plants largely by themselves.
These are just some of the various aspects of life that IoT is seeking to make a difference. Even though still in its early stages with dozens of research still going on, IoT and its deployments have been met with some resistance from different schools of thought — economic, technological, humanitarian, etc.
which has made its acceptability by most of society hostile.
The economic critics argue against the job disruption IoT may bring. Imagine the number of jobs created at key installations like energy, water and sanitation sites which is likely to be fully automated by IoT deployments. The economic advocates against IoT argue IoT will cause massive job losses across industries and displace the human labor force which might cause an economic crises. Because, the human labour force is rewarded with monthly salaries which they in-turn spend in the economy on other goods and services, economists bemoan a world where people don’t make money because their works have been taken over by machines and devices and they don’t have work to do. They argue it might create an insane financial gap and its attendant issues might be insurmountable.
Technological. The technological critics of IoT have raised concerns from different angles of thought and practice of the systems that are already in use. Their criticisms span privacy and security to governance and regulation.
Privacy and security. Critics with this standpoint argue IoT deployment will mean individuals releasing more personal data through IoT devices and relinquishing their privacy. They are of the view that, should IoT be further deployed across the different spheres of our lives, intricate personal data of
individuals such as sleeping time, passwords, card numbers, health data etc. will be collected by these devices and it might amount to us seeding the control of our lives to devices. In another breath, they argue in terms of the security of the data to be collected and coordinated by this devices. They
raise concerns about data storage, integrity, confidentiality and availability of the data collected.
Given the incessant cyber-attacks on systems worldwide which the IT community is still grumbling with, they argue that, IoT advocates cannot guarantee the secrecy of such intricate data of individuals and by extension their safety from beaches and resulting possible harm against potential victims.
Governance in Information Technology and its related fields is very important. It is the vehicle through which standards — hardware, interoperability, terminologies, platform cohesion etc. are developed to create a seamless uniform functioning of software and hardware globally. As things
are now, IoT does not have any uniformity in the standards of its deployments. Every IoT adoption has different standards implemented by its different manufacturers. Critics argue from this perspective that the inchoation of hardware, software and platforms IoTs are pioneered makes their coordination difficult and this hinders its purpose. Hence the governance critics position that until the governance incoherencies are addressed and common protocols and standards are developed and agreed to allow for interoperability of the different hardware, software and platforms, full IoT
adoption is far from near.
Every industry has regulation watchdogs who watch over their activities. Criticisms against IoT deployments bothering on regulation advocate that if IoT is fully deployed, there might be regulation challenges holding manufacturers and users to standards and policies. They argue using
the occurrences in cybersecurity and the difficulties regulating bodies and governments are having tracking and cracking down on offenders. For this, they continue to raise issues concerning safety of the environment and some specific age of users.
With covid — 19 and its mode of transmission and obligatory protocols like social distancing, the advocacy for full IOT deployments might just be the needed solution but advocates for IoT implementation have a tumultuous task of addressing key concerns and criticisms which critics say are foundational ethical concerns to IoT implementations. Nonetheless, the conversation can no more be shelved and covid — 19 could just be that needed ignition for sustained IoT adoption conversations.
P.S. Mawuli is an IT Professional and a tech writer with over 5 years of writing experience.