Blog / More Stuff You Might Not Need

So, what’s new?  The major themes this year were SMART homes and devices, self-driving cars, drones, and 3D printing. Every time we attend, we see products and services from the sublime to the (very) ridiculous. Some of the more notable items:

  • A car made out of 3D-printed components.  This was not a toy or tiny Eco-friendly battery car, but a full blown drive-able sports car.  The intent was to demonstrate a new manufacturing method that is cheaper, more efficient, and less intrusive on the environment.
  • A 3D printer using a wide variety of materials; wood, ceramic, polys (plastics), and resins.  The quality of the printed items was far ahead of anything seen to date. This is targeted at boutique manufacturing and sophisticated consumers. The cost is not much more than a high-end conventional laser printer.
  • A full-size drone capable of carrying a single passenger.  Think helicopter flown by someone on the ground.
  • SMART devices of every conceivable shape, size, and description. Light bulbs, TVs, fridges, stoves, blenders, fans, and chairs. By far, the most bizarre product we saw was SMART Underwear (no questions please – we had to avert our gaze as we walked past).
So, what’s the message to those who quietly toil away in the IT back-roads of Alberta; do we really care about the glitz and bling of these latest gadgets?  The answer is a qualified yes. Ten years ago, the average household had 2 computing gadgets; today the number is closer to 25.  In a few years, they estimate the number could be in the hundreds.  Soon, everything that you purchase for your home, car, or personal use will be SMART.

SMART devices are those that connect to the Internet (network) and offer some sort of remote monitoring or control; SMART appliances, TVs, door locks, light-bulbs, watches; even toothbrushes. These devices comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). I’ve written about the IoT before. It is a collection of devices (not under human control) that form part of your network.  SMART devices pose two major problems for networks:

  1. They take up Internet and Network bandwidth – as they communicate with the rest of the world, they each take a small piece of your limited Internet bandwidth and possibly your WiFi.  Most often, you have no control of when or how much bandwidth they take.
  2. They are security risks – the programming used to make these devices SMART is hard-coded into the device.  The manufacturers focus on the functionality of their devices – not security – to keep device cost low.  In addition, all devices in a particular model-run are identical – perhaps millions of them.  Thus, if a hacker targets a device, potentially millions of devices are at risk. The attack could focus on taking control of the device, disabling it, destroying it, or using it as a gateway to the rest of the network. You won’t know until it happens. Once compromised, it is almost impossible to properly update or secure the device – you most likely will throw the cheaper ones away.
So far, the focus is on home devices.  But SMART devices will show up in our offices very soon. We already see door locks, HVAC systems, printers, and security cameras. Soon there will be coffee makers, fridges, and light-bulbs.  Image having your corporate network compromised by a light-bulb.

It will be impossible to control the incursion of these devices into your corporate world. So, I can see the day when we will be recommending yet another independent and parallel network for the IoT.  That could mean duplicate Internet connections, firewalls, switches, WiFi, and possibly cabling to segregate these devices from your secure data network.

More complexity, more support, more cost.

Do I really need my toothbrush to tell me when to floss?

Please contact us or your primary tech if you would like more information on preparing for SMART devices on your network.