Walk the cavernous halls of this year’s Mobile World Conference and all sorts of sexy devices catch your eye. Sure, there are new, glitzy smartphones, lots of them, like every year. But there are also all these Internet of Things waiting to be noticed–a flying taxi, drones, all sorts of augmented reality demonstrations, eye blink detection capabilities, futuristic-looking self-driving cars, smart city integration models and big-data-converted-into-something-useful displays, to name a few.
Photo courtesy: MWC
There’s plenty excitement, too, about the dawn of 5G networks, which are expected to start showing up around the world in the next year or two. 5G is the “thing” that will help all these other “things” better communicate with – and learn from – each other. Listen to conversations in hallways and speeches at company booths with flashing lights and big screens, and it seems the entire mobile community is strapping itself in for the wild ride of IoT hardware and software possibilities coming with 5G rollouts.
The Internet of Things hype, however, fizzles out a bit when you enter the auditoriums at the far end of Hall 4, the middle of the giant conference venue that hosts some 108,000 mobile enthusiasts for four days every year. Executives, analysts and industry leaders gather in these low-lit rooms to share their concerns about real-life dilemmas shadowing the fourth industrial revolution, the unstoppable digital revolution that will further blur the lines between human and machine interactions.
Photo courtesy: Jennifer Baljko
It’s here where people talk about the challenging parts of IoT people generally don’t like talking about, like securing devices and data, building trust in the entire mobile ecosystem and protecting end-user privacy. This is where we get a reality check on how much work still has to be done before IoT’s promise reaches widespread fruition, and where IoT’s kinks will impact the supply chain from chip development to end-user app use.
Much to be desired
Sometimes, someone says something that puts perspective around where the IoT hype collides with the reality of what’s really happening on the ground. Jaya Baloo, chief information security officer at KPN Telecom, is one such person. She summed up what many companies charged with integrating IoT devices and data must feel.
“For me, it’s a scenario that begins with trepidation. Innovators call security departments the destroyer of dreams. Here it really starts with actually examining what is the security of the things we are trying to protect and who are we trying to protect them from,” Baloo said, citing her customer-facing involvement in IoT deployments, both in terms of being a user of hardware and software platforms and a vendor selling services to consumers.