Lisa Olson
7 min readJun 26, 2018

Let me throw some information at you about this thing called IoT and then we can talk about it. The internet of things is the idea of devices all talking to each other. All connected, all working together for the ‘greater good’. An IoT device is something that can be manipulated/controlled remotely. Examples would be using your phone to connect with an Uber driver or talking to your Google Home to order food for you. When we think of small things like Uber, it seems fairly harmless. When we think of things like smart homes, it feels slightly more invasive, and when we think of smart cities, it feels overwhelming.

You can paint a pretty gorgeous picture or a pretty gut-lurching picture when it comes to IoT. Both are credible and have their advantages/disadvantages. Topics like security and privacy leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth when it comes to IoT. That being said, being a coffee drinker myself, the idea of my alarm triggering my coffee machine sounds pretty nice.

As you’ve probably gathered, IoT stands for the Internet of Things. it’s the concept of software being embedded in everyday things that we regularly interact with. Think about the software embedded into cars to turn on your gas light, or your check engine light, or, as mentioned, the software that connects phones to each other so you can call an Uber.

If you’ve heard of the Internet of people, instead of connecting people, it’s about connecting things. Things can start to share their experiences with other things. It’s taking objects and adding the ability of that object to sense and communicate and touch and control. Things are able to interact and collaborate with other things. This forms a network of things interacting similarly to how humans do. Billions of things all connected from cellphones to coffee makers to lamps to watches to heart monitors to alarm systems… The possibilities are endless.

Before jumping into opinions, there’s some reasonably good things we can think of that IoT either has done, is currently doing or has the capacity to do in the future. I already mentioned being able to brew coffee from an alarm clock, but what about sprinklers that are able to talk to the city water conservation to decide how much water to disperse. Or what about the idea of office supplies automatically getting re-ordered when needed? Smart bracelets that can live track you and talk to various objects in your home to make your life easier. That’s the idea right? Making our lives more seamless.

So IoT.

Internet of Things. Let’s think about this. If you’ve used any devices recently, you’ll notice there’s a lot of applications that are free. Why is that? How do they make money? Take the example from the post from The Guardian that describes Amazon’s new product, the Dash button. With this product, you can sign into your Amazon account and with the press of a button get a refill on dog food, shampoo, or bottled water. While this is incredibly convenient, what does that mean? What information is being ‘freely’ given from Amazon? This gives Amazon access to vital consumer information that is worth millions and millions of dollars. They now get to know what we buy, what brand we buy, how much of it we buy, and approximately when we buy it.

Take another example such as the in-house devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo. Listening to everything we say, how we say it, keeping track of what we want, when we want it and how we want it. Sounds eerily similar to George Orwell’s 1984 doesn’t it? That being said, there’s so much good we’ve grown accustomed to that is only possible through IoT. Take, Apple Pay, or Uber. Without these interconnected devices all wired to the internet, we would have an extremely different world.

What are the positive impacts of IoT?

It could save people a lot of time and effort with medial tasks so they can plan out their day and life more efficiently. It could save people’s lives in terms of something like tsunamis. Getting information to people rapidly and using billions of inter-connected devices to communicate to masses all at once. How about gathering live traffic to re-route you during auto accidents? Or having advanced heart monitors that can live trace with a machine at the hospital. There’s an example of Google using IoT for good in studying the patterns people used to research their flu symptoms. Because of all this aggregated data, Google was able to help come up with better quality health service.

Negative impacts?

There’s quite a few. When it comes to systems as complicated as the Internet, there’s no way to predict what will happen. Unexpected behavior is inevitable. If we say, (as I have said myself) that self-driving cars are safer than humans, what does that mean? We’re implying that software is more secure than the human who designed it. When we think of humans always behind the software, we make the assumption that we’re only as good as what we can collectively design. How good is that? Is it worth the risk?


Safety is a huge topic when it comes to IoT. Would someone be able to break into your smart toaster and suddenly have access to your entire house? Hacking into cars is a concern. Causing massive collateral damage on an entire system that’s all inter-woven and inter-connected would be catastrophic. Further, there’s the question of data storage. At this point, it’s hard to fathom how this amount of data would be stored and used daily. The quantity we’re talking about is colossal.

Another thought as well is the idea of what data is. How is the data collected? Is it accurate? Would these intricate, elaborate, billion-item systems be used to present accurate and precise information? So much comes into gathering information about users and it could skew the entire culture and world as we know it if it isn’t processed correctly.

Smart Cities

The further we push ourselves in areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the more advanced and improved these intertwined systems will become. Ideally, it seems, there are interconnected devices that can help humanity as a whole save energy and consume more efficiently and effectively. The question then comes into play if only the mass corporations are getting these millions of data sets, how would it affect the lives and futures of the smaller companies without the resources of ‘smart technologies’. It seems there would be far less options if the click of a button only connected me to Walmart, Target, or Olive Garden. Would humans as a whole inconvenience themselves for the sake of trying something new?

According to Forbes, the retail, healthcare and industrial/supply chain will grow the most. This makes sense as it seems the recurring theme is gathering masses of data about consumption and consumer interest.

More Examples

IoT is expected to soon impact close to every industry. Environmental monitoring, building and home automation, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure applications, enterprise applications, let alone the things we think of right away like smart homes and consumer applications. On a non-consumer approach, what would IoT look like?

In terms of manufacturing, IoT systems could be tracking live responses to customers and building with that in mind. The iterations would be faster and more effective to consumer demands. In agriculture, by gathering data on temperature and soil, IoT systems could make smart decisions on how to best water, fertilize, and assess for the next year. What about energy management? Energy consumption could be greatly optimized by allowing systems to take over heating, cooling and lighting.

Healthcare is a huge industry that could possibly lead to the most benefit for humans. By using IoT devices to monitor heart rate and blood pressure, there would be less need for human involvement and the adjustments or care that were delivered would be more pin-pointed to the individual’s need.

When it comes to transportation, rather than the need for human drivers and human involvement in trying to quickly make decisions on speeds and possible collisions, the inter-connected systems could be dynamically gathering data to create the best route possible for the good of all. (It’s sounding utilitarian isn’t it?)

Main Players

The main companies driving IoT are Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, Cisco, Verizon, AT&T, and Fitbit. The main platforms at this point to handle that data are AWS, Azure, Cisco, Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft. There’s others of course.

In summary

There’s lots to think about and lots to study when it comes to IoT. This really just begins to scrape the surface of the vast opinions, benefits, disadvantages, and possibilities of the future that’s coming with IoT on the rise. It’s something to consistently be aware and conscious of when you shop, what you buy, why you bought it, how you formed your decision, how much you value privacy, what you want out of society and what you expect of technology and it’s involvement in your life.

What do you think? Feel free to keep the conversation going!



Lisa Olson

Front End Developer. Passionate about everything I do. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.