Will vulnerabilities undermine its potential?

Executive Summary

The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is abundant, according to proponents: This growing array of internet-linked devices, ranging from baby monitors to thermostats to cars, will improve lives, increase productivity and create new business markets. Skeptics point to equally substantial downsides, including vulnerability to cyberattack and concerns about personal privacy. They also question whether consumers really want all these interconnected devices, or whether producers have gotten ahead of the market. Whatever the answer, the IoT is spreading; according to one estimate, more than 28 billion connected devices exist worldwide, and that will grow to 50 billion by the end of the decade.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Cloud-based data storage is a central element of the IoT, and two corporate giants, Amazon and Microsoft, are vying for dominance in this field.

  • Another key battleground is self-driving vehicles, with early entrant Google facing competition from several corporate rivals.

  • Other areas of IoT application include home energy systems, wearable fitness monitors and robots for use in security, health care and retailing.

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Resources for Further Study



Brynjolfsson, Eric, and Andrew McAfee, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,” W.W. Norton, 2014. Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists envision a future in which computers and technology play a larger role in society and the workplace.

Kellmereit, Daniel, and Daniel Obodovski, “The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things,” DnD Ventures, 2013. A former tech CEO (Kellmereit) and the founder of a consulting firm (Obodovski) chronicle the history, trends, technology ecosystem and future of the IoT.


Eunjung Cha, Ariana, “Watson’s Next Feat? Taking On Cancer,” The Washington Post, June 27, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/o4hopze. A journalist explains how the IBM Watson computer is being used in medical applications.

Huff, Dana, and Martin, Chris, “Tesla Seals $2 Billion Solar City Deal,” Bloomberg, Nov. 18, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/hwmt55d. Two business journalists analyze the financial implications behind Tesla’s purchase of Solar City.

Kovach, Steve, “Wearables are Dead,” Business Insider, Dec. 11, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jj8gaeh. An article tracks the decline in sales of wearable devices.

Morgan, Jacob, “A Simple Explanation Of ‘The Internet of Things,’” Forbes, May 13, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/hmb9alt. An author/futurist outlines the basic elements of the IoT.

Peterson, Andrea, “‘Internet of Things’ compounded Friday’s hack of major websites,” The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/zd8l4h6. News coverage of the cyberattack on Dyn, a domain name system company, which was attributed to IoT devices.

Press, Gil, “A Very Short History of the Internet of Things,” Forbes, June 18, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/htf8dv6. A technology writer and consultant lays out a roadmap of important discoveries and writings that highlight the IoT.

Reports and Studies

Bradley, Ryan, “Tesla Autopilot: The electric-vehicle maker sent its cars a software update that suddenly made autonomous driving a reality,” MIT Technology Review, http://tinyurl.com/gvl92nl. A journalist describes how Tesla marketed and launched its Autopilot autonomous driving application.

Leiner, Barry M., et al., “Brief History of the Internet,” Internet Society, http://tinyurl.com/alpk8wp. A group of scientists and business people provide a finely detailed history of the early days of the internet.

Simonite, Tom, “Moore’s Law is Dead. Now What?” MIT Technology Review, May 13, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/hnhsjde. The publication’s San Francisco bureau chief breaks down the possible limits of technological expansion.

The Next Step

Device Security

Aldred, Mark, “IoT in the banking industry: A logical evolution or a true revolution?” Tech City News, Feb. 15, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/jxxgubb. Banking apps are becoming a part of the Internet of Things (IoT), but some consumers are hesitant to trust their smartphones’ security with crucial financial information.

Bartz, Diane, and Jim Finkle, “U.S. sues D-Link, alleges lax security in routers, cameras,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/zcpblwg. In an effort to promote security for IoT-connected devices, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against a California manufacturer for its poor security features on routers and cameras.

Ey, Taylor, “Staying Ahead of Privacy and Security Risks in Internet of Things,” The National Law Review, Jan. 25, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/hgx9go5. The growing amount of user data that smartphones can absorb is increasingly enticing – and more easily accessible – to cybercriminals.

Government Regulation

Armerding, Taylor, “Can the FTC save the IoT?” CSO, Feb. 9, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/j6cdzjw. Privacy and civil rights advocates say government regulation of IoT-connected devices would lead to invasive government surveillance, while proponents of regulation believe it is necessary to ensure security for billions of devices.

Wright, Rob, “Bruce Schneier: It’s time for internet-of-things regulation,” TechTarget, Feb. 15, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/hue5h4x. Saying IoT security is a unique problem, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier calls for the creation of a government agency to oversee its regulation.

Yoshida, Junko, “EU Privacy Rules Can Cloud Your IoT Future,” EETimes, Feb. 23, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/zwwnn8f. In 2018, the European Union will implement the new general data protection regulation, which could cost violators up to 20 million euros (about $21 million) and affect major companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.


Center for Democracy & Technology
1401 K St., N.W., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005
202-637-0968 (fax)
Non-profit organization working to preserve the user-controlled nature of the internet and champion freedom of expression.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
675 N. Randolph St., Arlington, VA 22203-2114
U.S. government agency dedicated to spurring technological advances.

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., S.W., Washington, DC 20554
Federal agency that regulates interstate and international communications in the United States by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

The Internet Engineering Task Force
5177 Brandin Court, Fremont, CA 94538
510-492-4001 (fax)
An open international community of network designers, operators, vendors and researchers concerned with the evolution of the internet’s architecture and its smooth operation.

Internet Society
1775 Wiehle Ave., Suite 201, Reston, VA 201950-5108
703-326-9881 (fax)
Founded by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, two of the “Fathers of the Internet,” the group’s mission is “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.”

DOI: 10.1177/237455680307.n1