By Chris Latterell, VP Marketing, Open-Xchange
Fridges that reorder food when running low, ovens that have dinner ready, waiting as you get in from work- this is the utopic dream we are being sold with ‘The Internet of things.’ The illusion that the IoT can enrich our lives and we can own a piece of the net because ‘the Internet is just things, right?’ is why the Zuckerberg’s of the tech world call consumers ‘dumb fucks’- an insult to their misguided trust in such a vision.
As our lives seemingly become inextricably combined with the impending promise of the IoT, the FTC wish to ‘protect’ us from the greedy hands of companies like Google and Apple that would love nothing more than to take an Internet-connected bath in the data we freely give away. Whilst, self-regulating and ‘three key outlines for minimization’ are all steps in the right direction, they are not robust enough for companies that need our data but pretend to care about our privacy.
If these companies really cared about an IoT, we would see open APIs become more prevalent in new product development cycles as opposed to the decline that is now occurring. Large corporations dictate how we connect with the Internet and digest its content. Competing social networks like Facebook and Twitter are actively burying each other by disabling photo integration and other communication between platforms. At the heart of this lies a concerted effort to try and centralize the Internet, despite the fact that it was a distributed network by design.
The IoT focuses on tangible goods like Google or Apple smart devices, the ‘Shiny New Things. But this is just a smokescreen for the true reality that ‘things’ are actually a means of collecting data, listening devices, information recorders. We are disillusioned with the idea of ‘owning’ these products because they are shiny; because they help us lose weight or be better shoppers. But do we really own products that suck up our data which we have no access to once it’s being analyzed on a server in California? As Aral Balkan of ind.ie recently put it ‘there is no internet of things: there is only the internet of data’ — and your things aren’t just part of the Internet, they are the reason the Internet and its broken state is prospering like a weed.
The IoT is a marketing scheme to get more of your data; I know: I’m in marketing. If it was real, each connected device would be a node of equal status in a decentralized network, and not merely a slave, as hoarding hubs for huge central databases. The IoT must have users directly in control of their own data for it to succeed.
But some critics caution against putting too much responsibility on consumers to protect their data. Try saying that to someone about their money. People are free to put their money in a bank or investment they think safe, but as it stands their data is being given the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ treatment by a desperate hedge fund trader and told to just enjoy the angry bird and green pig show.
The next version of the Internet is either going to be humanity’s greatest success ever or our greatest failure. I don’t agree with much of what Google’s Eric Schmidt says, but he did get it right when he said: “the Internet is the first thing humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” The future of the current Internet Mr. Schmidt, I do hope disappears. Because I hope the brightest future of an Internet we control lies undiscovered before us and firmly in our hands.
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