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For the Good of the Internet – of Things

Marco Hogewoning — 07 Oct 2016
Sure, for some the Internet of Things is just an opportunity to make money. But what if it's also an opportunity to share our expertise - and in the process, make the world a better place?

 

Addressing the topic of the Internet of Things (IoT) during RIPE 72, one of the speakers started his presentation with the observation that, “The IoT won’t make you rich”. However, he then went on to conclude that, “You can make a living at the same time as having fun and making the world a better place.” There’s been a lot of talk about the economic opportunities that the IoT might provide, but ignoring the obvious driver to make money, what else can be done with the IoT to make the world a little bit better?

Many well-known Internet institutions weren’t founded with the intent of getting rich – in fact, you can argue that the inception of the Internet itself wasn’t aimed at obtaining any commercial success. Many Internet organisations are established as not-for-profits, and a lot of critical Internet services are not operated with the primary purpose of making money, but simply as an enablers that exist for the good of the Internet.

Times have changed, of course, and the Internet has turned into a commercial success that allows many people to make a living – and some to even get rich. If any, the projections for what is commonly referred to as the IoT are even more optimistic, full of forecasts that connecting everything together and processing vast quantities of data will allow even bigger commercial success and profits to be made.

Yet at the same time, many concerns have been raised – especially by those who understand the technology – about the risks involved with an ever more connected society and the dependencies this creates for our economic well-being. These issues range from questioning the scalability of it all to the dangers of cyber warfare, where a well-aimed attack could cripple an entire country.

The Internet of Things (Source: Wikipedia )

Closer to home, there are many concerns regarding the security of the connected devices we place in our houses and use on a daily basis. How well equipped is my connected TV to fend off people from ruining my movie night or using it as a tool to attack others? And how likely is it that new software would become available if security flaws are discovered?

As more and more issues are contemplated, it becomes more and more clear that a solid understanding of the IoT landscape is going to be crucial to thoughtfully navigate the waters ahead. Good advise is hard to come by, and doing things right usually means spending more money, which isn’t always supported by the business case. As this becomes more of a widespread problem, it’s also a good opportunity to step back and ask ourselves: what can we, as the technical community, do in order to provide a solid basis of understanding for the good of everyone?

LINX , a well-known Internet not-for-profit membership organisation, states that, “The Internet is a co-operative endeavour that depends on the collaborative participation of competing businesses. The Internet industry is therefore especially reliant on forums which bring together competing interests to deal with issues of technology, standards and self-regulation.”

Imagine what would happen if we apply the same principle to the Internet of Things. What if we could provide a neutral platform to deal with the wide range of issues the industry currently faces? Or, going a step further, could we actually enrich the IoT experience by contributing our decades of expertise in designing networks and computer systems and debugging code?

If you are like me, I am sure you, too, dealt with your fair share of learning things the hard way. Luckily for me and my customers at the time, I was doing things at a time when such learning moments were mostly just annoying – certainly not life threatening or risking huge economic collapse as in today’s fast-paced, global environment.

We can no longer afford to learn the hard way – or let others learn the hard way, either. I believe we are collectively better off if we reach out and convey some of our experience and expertise to these “newcomers” operating in the IoT space. If not for the money, perhaps we can do it to make the world a little bit better.

This is why we're organising an IoT BoF at RIPE 73. We want to bring together everyone working in the IoT space and those with experience to share to have an open dialogue on best practices, technological challenges and solutions, and how to move forward together. If you're attending RIPE 73, we hope you'll join us. If you can't be there in person, we'll be sure to share the outcome in another article to keep the dialogue going.

Let’s do this for the good of the Internet of Things. As a result, we’ll be helping the “Internet of People”, too.

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