The Internet of Things is a great noun. In just three words, it describes an entirely new generation of interconnectivity among the devices with which we intersect in our daily lives—toasters, refrigerators, ovens, HVAC in the home, pet monitors, baby monitors, televisions, sound systems, smoke alarms. The Internet of Things installs in all of these appliances connectivity to the Net and the Cloud, enabling you better electronic control and, as reported in many sources, increased surveillance of how you live your life. Consumption patterns, usage patterns within the home, food preferences, sleeping styles, and on and on. But the Internet of Things also invites malicious actors—hackers that intrude electronically. One story I saw this weekend reported hacking into a baby monitor and broadcasting offensive sounds to the infant!
So, what will it take for you to trust the Internet of Things? Will you begin to use these appliances without a second thought or, perhaps, will you take that second and third and further thought? If you do the latter, what will be the content of your thoughts? How do you decide to trust an entirely new device, and its potentials for good and for harm? What sources of knowledge will you seek out to inform you of the questions to be asking and, as well, the answers? What kind of trial experiences will you want to conduct? If there is no eBay-like crowd sourcing of evaluations of each new product, how will you decide to put these devices into your home?
All of these questions highlight that each new technology we consider as a tool with which to conduct our lives confronts us with the need to make an affirmative decision—do you, or do you not, trust the device? It is a fairly binary analysis, but immensely complicated in its execution. If you decide to trust the new tool, and it does not work as promised, or causes injury or harm, what will be your reaction to the next new device making up the Internet of Things? How will your bad experience change your criteria for evaluating the next tool? Will you change your requirements or use the same considerations you used the first time? Well, that one is easy—every experience we have shapes our next related decisions. Good choices and good outcomes move our criteria in one direction; bad choices and bad outcomes change our criteria in another direction.
As The Internet of Things moves front and center into our lives, this is a great time to focus on how each of us make our trust decisions about new devices that extend the reach of the Net. But the stories about these new devices also confront us with the reality that every device is now a recording agent, collecting, processing, and communicating data about your interactions with the device and transporting that data into large, analytical tools that help inform the refinement and design of even more tools and their related data assets. The stories also soberly remind us that every digital device becomes an access point for malicious actors, even the sound monitors you install to keep an ear close to the murmurs of your sleeping child. What criteria will you express, and what answers will you require, before you trust each new device that populates the Internet of Things?
In my new book, I introduce a very cool thing—a tool is so simple in its essential design that you can draw out on a dinner napkin—the trust prism. Using the trust prism, each stakeholder in a new device—the investor, the designer, the manufacturer, the service provider, and the homeowner consumer—can better visualize the questions they need to be asking to reach affirmative decisions to trust the device. In doing so, the answers can also emerge more quickly and, hopefully, with less adverse incidents. After all, the malicious actors are only exploiting one true failure—the failure of each of these stakeholders to ask and answer the questions that need to be asked to make effective trust decisions!
What are your questions? What will it take for you to trust the Internet of Things? What will you want to know to trust the devices with the detailed information they will collect about how you live your life?