The Internet of (Not Shit) Things
Trying to better understand the problems of the IoT by actually listening to its detractors.
The Internet of Things! Existential menace or meaningless buzzword?
Automating away drudgery or just eroding privacy? Cornucopia or
The Internet of Shit
The negative side of the argument is eloquently expressed in too many
places to list here, often under the catchy name “The Internet of
There’s even an @internetofshit twitter
But why such skepticism in a world of rampant technophilia? Why are we
not, in fact, welcoming our robot
Very Valid Criticisms
There are a lot of criticisms out there, but for me the top ones are:
- If you’re not the customer, you’re the
The backend services have to get paid for somehow. and if you’re not
paying directly, you’re paying by accepting advertising and/or by
having your privacy sold.
- Your hi-tech device may suddenly turn into a container of
if the service provider no longer feels like supporting it.
- Uselsss if the Internet isn’t available. Even the most reliable
networks sometimes go down. Consumer routers fail.
- Crypto support on IoT devices is often very weak. Partly because of
lack of entropy, lack of CPU resources, etc. It’s tricky to use a
protocol like SSL on a tiny CPU.
- It’s hard enough to get people to change their smoke alarm
batteries or update Internet
No-one ever is going to reflash their thermostat.
- The software for things like lightbulbs is often
awful, and open to all
kinds of exploitation. This shouldn’t be too surprising since even
the manufacturers of electronic locks have trouble getting this
Not Shit Things
Turning the criticisms around, what requirements do we get:
- Devices need to be retargetable. That Nest
really just a rotary encoder and a display, so why shouldn’t it do
other things, or more things, if you no longer want it to be just
a thermostat. Why should all your lightbulbs be locked into a single
- Communications need to be local. Sure, it’s nifty that you can
switch your lights on from Low Earth Orbit, but it is ridiculous to
bounce every light-switch-flip off some
- The network needs to be protected. Mostly from the Internet, but
also from the local
Any candidate solution has to address these requirements.
I’d like to do some more work on defining a simple candidate protocol
which would meet these requirements and hopefully get it published as
an RFC. In the meantime, I’ll be talking
about The Internet of
Toys at Buzzconf
Nights and continuing to develop these