BY assistant Prof Bruce Baer Arnold
THE internet of things might well ending up being the death of us all.
It has not been an inspiring few weeks in the world of technology.
Mighty Samsung has admitted that its flagship phablet (phone meets tablet) the Note 7 is a dangerous fire hazard and beyond the company’s capacity to make safe.
This failure is no small deal. Think about it again. A centrepiece product of one of the world’s most accomplished manufacturers is a fire hazard beyond remediation.
A great number of people, many of them lacking much at all in the way of technical knowledge, are mad keen to cram us all into an interconnected future with swarms of devices enriching our lives.
I’d like to make clear that I’m no luddite. I struggle to walk the dogs with less than three electronic devices on my person. There is not a room in my house that doesn’t have some sort of computer in it.
My bicycle sports more computing power than a moon mission.
And yet I’ll confess to getting more and more nervous as our world fills up with poorly made, badly configured and rarely upgraded machinery.
A dirty secret of IT workers everywhere is that most of what they do is composed of last-minute kludges.
Sure, at the high management levels, there are flow charts and diagrams with clean lines.
But when it comes time to making it all work there’s a whole lot of “that’s odd”, “it shouldn’t do that” and “can you get me coffee and pizza, it’s going to be a long night?”.
Things get banged together, work-arounds are thrown into the mix with little consideration. If it works on the morning when the CEO comes to visit then high fives all around and whatever you do, don’t mess with it.
The long-term implications of short-term decisions piled on top of each other are a problem for another day.
Bear in mind those problems of another day are a pay cheque for someone else in the industry, so there’s no great incentive to get things done right.
On top of this house of cards we have intelligence agencies overtly and covertly inserting backdoors into IT systems wherever they can in order to make their snooping easier.
Don’t forget that some of these agencies have very large numbers of staff who don’t necessarily stay in the one place their whole working lives.
Throw into the mix the desperate, heaving ferment of Chinese manufacturing innovation, where product designs are stolen, re-stolen and can come to market from multiple manufacturers before the product even has a name.
Now take the product of this horrific mess of a process, put a camera on it, connect it to your wifi network and put it in your home.
Are you feeling safe yet? Comfortable having your children alone in a room with such a device?
Relax. You’ve probably already done it.
Nothing bad happened did it? Yet…
John Griffiths is the online editor of citynews.com.au