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Internet of Trauma?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is at once stealthy and ubiquitous. Barely visible to many, it is altering how we interact with the world around us. IoT is any device on wifi that enables us to do what we previously did with hardwired connection or manual action. We recently moved from our 20th century home security service to an IoT system. For $250 we permanently altered the equation with our home and ejected our security company that quoted us ten times more to upgrade to a similar model. It took an hour to install the IoT devices and app, connect them to our WiFi, configure the devices from our phone, and “arm” our home. We are reassured by the fact that the system’s ear piercing alarm will make intruders decompose at a molecular level.

We can watch, control, and review the history of our doors and windows from anywhere in the world, at any time of the can the company providing the devices. Therein, my friends, lies the "trauma".

We had to grapple with the privacy issue before intellectually committing to data sharing and the real possibility of hacks and breaches. As if that wasn’t enough, our security system came with a “home assistant”, a butler-esque device that responds to voice commands. We know that this innocuous globe is fully capable of listening in on our conversations and transmitting them to the mothership or be hijacked by miscreants. I’ve never wanted a home assistant for these reasons.

But when it comes for free, well....

Tarun and I are frequently reminding each other to unplug the home assistant when it doesn’t need to do our bidding. This sense of “being spied on” does not come naturally inside our home where privacy has had a hallowed berth, partly by design and partly by virtue of living in an analog dimension. Until last weekend.

All of a sudden, we made a giant leap forward: IoT will be in play when our aging appliances need to be replaced, when our sump pump dies, or when our light bulbs need to be replaced. The right side of the brain knows that being more connected is safer, cheaper, and efficient. The left side worries about privacy and all of the data we are generating. Take a moment to think of the volume of data these devices are producing every second of every day, in every household and building where you find them! Have you wondered about the boxy buildings without windows that are popping up all around us? Yup, they are data centers to house this data. When I consider that we are on track to run the entire planet to oblivion, I think: what's a data center or two or thousand!

According to Intel, our IoT world is expanding at breakneck speed with a projected growth from 2 billion devices in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020, which amounts to 26 smart devices per person. The graphic below shows where we are right now in terms of distribution of IoT devices. Replacing our security system marks the beginning of the IoT journey in our home. What will be your precipitating event? Sooner or later you’ll be asking yourself this question. Better start on that intellectual commitment thingy now, so that IoT does not become the Internet of Trauma for you.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and aunts in my life!

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