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Recently I have attended an IoT conference where three presentations caught my attention:
Presentation 1: Development of IoT. This presentation was held by an IoT expert representing a renowned IT company. He proudly spoke about pioneering IoT projects his company is working on:
(1) A smart house, equipped with sensors from sofa to the main gate, with a notification feature in case of any abnormal activities.
(2) A robot arm which performs a quality assurance test by detecting flaws in a manufactured part and communicating the error via sound or speech. The message delivered: These robots are being taught, by means of AI, to take over the human work. The presentation of these projects elicited a big round of applause as the audience just witnessed the future development of the digitally empowered products and AI. The whole enthusiasm turned into confusion as the second speaker came up with his presentation.
Presentation 2: Disruption of IoT. This presentation was held by a cybersecurity startup company, founded by a couple of ethical hackers, which highlighted the risks of minor security loopholes in almost all IoT applications. The speaker ended most of his statements with “this can ruin the end user or even lead to fatal consequences”. Examples he provided included hacking and manipulating a pace-maker, remote hijacking a plane, manipulating a smart house to cause a false alarm or open the doors, hacking the industrial IoT to manipulate the processes, copying bitcoins and so on. For those who think that brownfield manufacturing is still an unknown world for hackers: The last 5 minutes of his time, he utilized hacking live into a legacy SCADA system. What the gentleman also stated is that the hackers are always a step ahead of what society thinks the latest development in the field of cybersecurity and that the hackers view each and every sensor as a potential “doorway” to the system sitting behind it. His presentation left us all questioning the digitalization trend (or opening more doors to the hackers) and associated risks.
Presentation 3: Disruption by IoT. The speaker from a renowned MNC highlighted the upcoming manpower crisis. The creation and operation of IoT applications oftentimes demand a different set of skills. Companies are investing heavily in IoT projects and they are either hiring IT experts or outsourcing the complete development. This comes at the cost of shutting down entire business units and laying off hundreds of employees. Big organizations term it as restructuring. But the story does not end here. Once the smart machines take over more human jobs, then there will be an era of huge job scarcity. What will the society do with workers (let’s say all with an average age of 50), whose work has been taken over by the sophisticated robots?
I guess I do not have to tell you how these three cases are interlinked. These three presentations gave the audience a good food for thought as everyone was talking about them in one or the other context. The discussion however revolved around one question which I would like to ask here as well:
How much of IoT is too much?