The Blockchain in our Future

blockchainYou may have seen articles that predict that the blockchain will be a major software tool in the very near future. Or you may have seen that blockchains are at the heart today of cryptocurrency like Bitcoins. I’ve been following the development of blockchain technology and I think it’s something that will soon quietly sneak into all of our lives.

So what is a blockchain? It’s essentially a software technique for creating a permanent and unchangeable ledger of events – a record of events that are stored in sequential order and that can never be altered. There are many places in the business world where having a permanent record of events or transactions would be of great value.

Second, a blockchain relies on peer-to-peer verification of entries onto the chain. That means that the identity of the person making any entry into a blockchain is verified by somebody else. This verification process adds validity to the entries on the chain since every entry on the chain has a verified author.

Third, blockchain information can easily be encrypted, making it hard for anybody other than the people involved in the transactions to be able to read the information on the blockchain. This adds an automatic level of security because, unlike a standard data base, each entry can be separately encrypted making the task to decrypt daunting. In a standard database, once a hacker gains access to the database they can see everything. In a blockchain a hacker would have to individually unscramble each entry – something that will deter all except the most determined hacker.

So, what are some of the ways that a blockchain might be used? The short answer is that it will make sense to use the technology anyplace where there is merit in having a detailed record of events that can’t be amended or altered. I can think of hundreds of likely uses, but here are a few:

Accounting. Since a blockchain is basically a ledger it would make sense to use it during the accounting process. In a larger company where multiple people can make accounting entries, a blockchain could be established that would record the events of each entry made – not only the entry itself, but who made it and when they made it. There also could be a pointer to the underlying document that supported the entry. This would be of use to the head accountant in the company because they can now look back with certainty and know everything about any entry into the accounting system. This would give them a tool to pinpoint who made mistakes. But the real benefit would be for external auditors who could quickly understand every entry in detail. Blockchain also would provide the history of each entry and would show if and when an entry was ever changed or amended. A ledger backed up a blockchain creates an audit trail that will make it easier to do things like pass a tax audit years later after everybody in the company forgets the details.

Credit Card Security. I can picture a credit card company establishing a blockchain to record the events of each credit card transaction with the goal of cutting down on credit card fraud. For a credit card used in a store it would establish an exact time stamp of a transaction. But there also might be a picture snapped of the purchaser or some biometric test like taking a thumbprint. Biometric credit transactions are being tested in China, and using a blockchain adds the ability to make a permanent and indelible record of the events involved in each transaction. Something similar could be done with online purchases where a blockchain could be used to record the IP address of the purchaser of other identifying information that might make it easier to track down fraud.

Personal Blockchains. I think people will be interested in keeping track of events in their life. We do a lot of things electronically today and those records are fleeting. You inevitably get a new smartphone or change cellular providers and your personal history is lost. And even if you somehow keep every text you’ve ever made, for example, there is no current easy way to search through them to find a specific text you might have made years ago. A blockchain creates a ledger that can then be searched. For some reason that is beyond my understanding, my wife likes to read things I wrote to her years ago, so she is going to love this! In essence a personal blockchain could create a searchable log of events in your life, large and small.

I can easily think of hundreds of uses for the idea of keeping track of the things we do at work or in our personal lives. The blockchain provides a tool to create a permanent and searchable ledger of past events. For any business that does a lot of transactions of any kind, this gives them a new tool to create a record of their business – something that businesses are largely not very good at today.

IoT as a New Product Line

Light bulbLast week Google and Nest announced that they were discontinuing the Revolv IoT hub for the home. The hub is the smart device that sits at the core of an IoT network and is generally the device that lets a user communicate with any other devices in the network. The Revolv hub will still work for anybody that owns one, but there will be no further development on the hub and no new devices designed to work with it.

And this got me thinking about small carriers offering IoT as a product. Big companies like Comcast are now offering a home automation package. Comcast has integrated nine different devices together that range from security, smart locks, smart lights, smart thermostat, etc. Comcast reports that they are surpassing their early goals and have a penetration rate of over 5% of total broadband customers.

But I would think that a company as large as Comcast has developed their own proprietary IoT hub to work seamlessly with all of the various devices. But finding a reliable hub vendor, and working to get any hub to work with a core set of devices can be a daunting task for smaller carriers. And since there are not yet any industry standards for IoT, devices don’t automatically integrate into different brands of hubs and will not work at all in many cases.

The real fear for a small carrier is that you’d build a product line around some specific brand of hub and that hub would either be discontinued or the company that makes it might even disappear. If you can’t trust somebody as large as Google for an IoT hub, then who can you trust in an industry that doesn’t yet have any clear dominant IoT manufacturers?

There are other issues with the IoT business plan that have to be considered. Probably the most immediate and costly issue is the fact that supporting residential IoT means a lot of truck rolls. I’ve looked at the cost of a truck roll for some of my clients and it’s not unusual to see costs of $50 to $75 for a truck roll, and so any business plan has to compensate for a product that is going to require multiple visits to customers over time.

Another issue to consider is customer expectations. There is now a huge variety of smart devices on the market and the vast majority of them are not going to work with whatever hub you choose. I would expect that once customers have some IoT devices from an ISP that they are going to buy other devices and will be disappointed when they won’t work with the hub that they are already paying for. And it’s virtually impossible for a small ISP to integrate incompatible devices with their hub of choice.

Yet another issue that is still of concern for the whole industry is security. Smart devices tend to have very rudimentary operating software and IT experts say that hacking IoT networks is relatively easy. I don’t think many of us are too worried about somebody hacking into our smart coffee pot, but when you put your thermostat, front door locks and watering systems onto a network together there is a lot of chance for damage from malicious hacking.

But a greater security concern is that an IoT network can be a gateway to your entire network and can let in malware and other problems that can create havoc with finances and personal data stored on your computers.

There are certainly customers that will buy these services, as has been demonstrated by Comcast. We might be decades away from a time where there might be significant penetration rates like we see with triple play products. But there probably is an opportunity today to get a small, but potentially profitable product out into the market. But the risks and costs of offering residential IoT still looks to be out of the comfort zone of many small ISPs. Perhaps rather than try to offer a full suite of products like Comcast is doing, a more workable strategy might be to concentrate on a small handful of functions like security and smart thermostats.

The Marketing Challenge for Smart Home Products

speakersIn reading all of the press releases out of the Consumer Electronics Show you would think that all of our homes are going to get flooded with smart devices in the next year or two. There is a huge range of devices being shown there that have at least some connectivity and that can be categorized as smart devices.

One has to wonder how much the American public is really ready for smart home devices. A survey late last year by the Demand Institute showed that there is still a relatively low interest in smart homes by the general public. The survey showed that 36% of the public was willing to incorporate smart technology into their homes and but that only 22% thought that smart home technology was of any real importance. This survey estimated that about 20% of homes already have some sort of smart home device.

The trouble with a poll on this topic is that you have to wonder how much understanding a lot of people have about the question. I would guess that the responses might be different if people were asked about specific applications – like using wireless speakers, a washer that senses the size of the load, or some similar device that many homes might already have. My guess is that interest in smart devices varies according to the type of device; people likely think differently about a smart thermostat versus a smart lightbulb versus a smart door lock, because each of these has a different value proposition – and a very different set of risks.

As you would expect, age plays a big factor in how open consumers are to smart home devices. 53% of those under 34 are open to the idea of smart homes while less than 20% of those over 65 are. And this perhaps might be a good way to highlight the confusion of the general public on the topic because I’ve seen several other polls that show a large percentage of elderly people would be interested in smart devices that would allow them to stay in their homes to an older age. These would all be smart home devices and yet nobody is thinking of these devices when asked the question.

As might also be expected, renters, being statistically younger, are more open to the idea in general than homeowners – although the age of a given person looks to be more of the determining factor.

The specific smart application that got the most attention was a way to cut down on energy usage. 71% of homeowners said that they would be interested in something that could do that, which varies significantly from the responses for smart home devices in general. Again, another example showing that the public might not have a good picture of what the term smart home device really means.

This poll and similar polls showing the same sorts of results should be of value to companies who are in, or thinking of getting into, the smart home business. It’s obvious that one of your biggest challenges in that business is educating your customers about what you are selling and why they ought to spend money for your solution.

I think these polls suggest that you should be careful about how you label smart home products and that, at least for now, you don’t want to be selling a ‘smart home solution.” Rather, the polls suggest that you would do a lot better in selling specific solutions – energy management or security. People might be interested in those without even realizing that they are smart home solutions.

One good news about this and other recent polls is that a significantly large percentage of people say that they expect smart home technology to be widespread within the next five years. If they aren’t interested now their disinterest is likely due to not understanding what “smart home” means. But the average person, at least, can foresee the coming change in technology and that a large percentage of the devices we buy in the future might be smart devices.

Policing the Web

The InternetLately there has been a lot of talk about policing the web – about keeping terrorist organizations from benefitting from the web, but also about cutting down on hate talk and other kinds of undesirable speech on social media. It seems to me that all attempts towards regulating speech on the Internet will instantly run into the proverbial slippery slope.

Certainly it would be hard to find anybody who doesn’t want to take down web sites that are the direct mouthpiece for ISIL and on which they make claims for terrorist attacks or directly solicit others to make attacks in the west. President Obama was said we need “high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.”

While the US war against ISIL is still undeclared, since we are spending billions to fight them in Syria it makes sense that we wouldn’t give them free reign on the web.

The president isn’t just talking about public web sites for ISIL, but rather their entire online network for communications, money-laundering, and all of the other activities that are on the web and which make it easier for them to operate. I think we should categorize what the president has in mind as making cyberwar against ISIL in the same manner we are making real war. I can’t imagine being against that.

Meanwhile, I have been seeing similar discussions about social media. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, was quoted in the New York Times saying we “should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media — sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment.”

The idea of the US blocking the web from a handful of worldwide bad actors like ISIL, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram is the sort of thing that can be decided as part of a national defense strategy. I personally see nothing wrong with the US government using cyber techniques to neutralize groups that clearly mean us harm.

But where do you draw the line after that handful of examples? For every bad thing said on the web by these international terrorist groups there are just as many totally repugnant things being said by domestic groups who spew hate, racism, and a call for rebellion against the US government. It’s hard sometime to see the difference between what the worst of them say and what ISIL says.

If it’s okay for the government to block ISIL web sites then is it just as okay for them to block sites for domestic radical militia groups, the KKK, or neo-Nazi groups? And if that is okay, then what about the next in line – groups that promote blocking abortion clinics or those who say that people should stop paying taxes? It seems to me that no matter where you draw the line there is going to be a group that is just barely over that line, and it is always going to tempting to block the next one up.

Worse, we aren’t discussing just blocking the web for groups with repugnant beliefs – but also people. The web is a place full of the disgruntled, the disenfranchised and the crazy who say all sorts of nutty and repugnant things. We have the freedom in the US to believe whatever we want as long as it doesn’t cause direct harm to somebody else. And there are people with some of the most unbelievable beliefs you can imagine.

But when Eric Schmidt talks about making a hate and harassment filter for social media he is talking about blocking people, not groups. Of course, companies like Facebook are private companies and they can choose to allow or disallow anything they want – that’s their right. Facebook already quietly blocks a number of things like nudity. But it would be a big step for them to start somehow monitoring content and to ban, banish, or delete conversations that might be considered as hate speech or harassment. It’s really easy to see the slippery slope in this, and I suspect Facebook would lose a huge number of subscribers if they go too far with this. Are algorithms really going to be able to see the difference between hate speech and satire?

I personally like living in a society that values free speech. People should be able to say any ridiculous or repugnant thing they want – and then live with the consequences. I think that hate and prejudice are the most scary when they are hidden under a rock and hidden from the light of day. I much prefer a world where the racists can openly be racists so that we all know who they are. I hope we don’t make the mistake of going too far down this slippery slope.

The Security / Privacy Battle

SpyVsSpyEvery time there is some traumatic terrorism event like what just happened in Paris there is a renewed call by governments for better surveillance and security measures. And every time that happens, the advocates of privacy sound a loud warning. What I find most interesting about this back and forth between the two sides is that it’s not events or even public policies that are driving the battle between security and privacy, but technology.

Just during the last decade there has been a number of technologies that have assaulted our privacy – encryption, big data, cloud computing, and advertising spyware. And we are fast approaching new threats from drones and from Internet of Things sensors everywhere.

The real battle between security and privacy happens when we introduce new innovations that can invade our privacy followed by countermeasures against those new technologies. There are plenty of politicians on both sides of the privacy issue who think that creating new laws is the way to protect privacy. But there are no laws that are going to flexible enough to keep up with the new threats we are constantly seeing in the real world.

Consider the traditional privacy laws. There have been wire-tapping laws on the books for decades which are now completely obsolete. The FBI convinced the FCC a few decades ago to create a set of laws called CALEA that gives the FBI the right to subpoena ISPs and get the records of suspected law breakers. ISPs and telcos spend a lot of money to stay compliant with these rules and yet I can’t think of one of my clients that has actually gotten a CALEA request from the FBI. ISPs do often get requests from local law enforcement asking for calling records under older wire-tapping laws, but not a peep out of the CALEA folks.

And this is because those laws were obsolete before the ink was dry on them. The CALEA rules were written not long after we had migrated from dial-up to DSL and there was no such thing as the dark web and disposable cell phones and all of the other ways that serious criminals use to avoid law enforcement.

What typically happens with a new technology is that it gives one side – the police or the bad guys – a temporary advantage. But there is always a technological counterpunch as somebody on the other side figures out how to defeat and neutralize each new technological development.

Edward Snowden showed us that law enforcement sometimes is so desperate for an edge that they collect data illegally in violation of the basic rights granted to US citizens by the fourth amendment. But even that is only a temporary edge. There are now numerous groups developing strategies to counteract widespread government surveillance.

There have been numerous attempts to pass surveillance and security laws starting with the Patriot Act. But industry experts say that most of the laws that try to give the government more power are ineffective, again because technology moves a lot faster than legislative bodies.

So what we see is a cat and mouse game. The NSA spies on us and so companies like Apple develop encryption that makes it hard or impossible for the NSA to gather anything useful. And there are more and more web services that either automatically encrypt or which offer that as an option.

It seems that the privacy advocates are winning the long term fight, and this is because there are ways around almost any tool the government or big business can use to spy on people. I’ve read several articles recently that talk about how even in China people are finding ways to bypass the strict security of the Great Firewall of China. But the fight is a long way from over because there are always going to be tools that come out that can be used to spy on people and there will then be ways to defeat those measures. We are likely to see this battle for decades to come.

Security and the IoT

One of my regular readers, Zora Lopez, created the document below that lists a lot of interesting facts about the current state of security and the Internet of Things. Her diagram stands pretty well on its own and so I won’t describe it, but there are a few facts on the diagram that I find very interesting:

  • Looking out to 2020 is shows that consumer IoT is only a small slice of the total market. I’ve seen comments asking if the IoT industry can be successful by selling smart thermostats. The answer is that they don’t have to, and the industry is much larger than that and mostly driven by businesses.
  • There are already almost 5 billion IoT devices connected across the world, nearly one for every person on the planet.
  • One scary thing on the list is the black market value from stealing personal data. An older credit card number is worth $5 on the black market while a newly issued one is worth $32. Bank accounts and Paypal account info is worth $27. These numbers show why it pays to be a hacker.

Security and the Internet of Things
Source: ComputerScienceZone.org

Latest on the Internet of Things – Part 1, Security

Monitor_padlockThere has been some negative press recently about the Internet of Things. There was both recent news about IoT security and also some consumer research that is of interest. Today’s blog will discuss the latest issues having to do with security and tomorrow I will look at issues having to do with marketing and the public perception of IoT.

Recently, Fortify, the security division of Hewlett-Packard analyzed the ten most popular consumer devices that are currently considered as part of the IoT. They didn’t name any specific manufacturer but did say that they looked at one each of “TVs, webcams, home thermostats, remote power outlets, sprinkler controllers, hubs for controlling multiple devices, door locks, home alarms, scales and garage door openers”. According to Fortify there was an average of 25 security weaknesses found in each device they analyzed.

All of the devices included a smartphone application to control them. The weaknesses are pretty glaring. 8 of the 10 devices had very week passwords. 9 of the 10 devices gathered some personal information about the owner such as an email address, home address or user name. 7 of 10 devices had no encryption and sent out data in a raw format. 6 of the devices didn’t encrypt updates, meaning that a hacker could fake an update and take over the device.

This is not much of a shock and the lack of IoT security has been reported before. It’s been clear that most manufacturers of these kinds of devices are not providing the same kind of security for these devices that is done for computers and smartphones. But this is the first time that anybody has looked at the most popular devices in such detail and has documented all of the kinds of weaknesses they found.

It’s fairly obvious that before the IoT becomes an everyday thing in households that these kinds of weaknesses have to be fixed. Otherwise, a day will come when there will be some spectacular security failure of an IoT device that will affect many households, and the whole industry will be set back a step.

It’s obvious that security really matters for some of these devices. If things like door locks, garage door openers and security systems can be easily hacked due to poor device security then the whole reason for buying such devices has been negated. I read last week that hackers have figured out how to hack into smart car locks and push-button car starters and that a car using those devices is no longer safe from being stolen. For a few years these devices gave some added protection against theft, but now they are perhaps easier to steal than a traditional vehicle and certainly easier to steal than a car using a physical anti-theft device like the Club.

I know that I am not going to be very quick to adopt IoT devices that might allow entry into my home. I don’t really need the convenience that might come from having my front door unlock as I pull into the driveway if this same feature means that a smart thief can achieve easy entry to my home.

So aside from home security devices, what’s the danger of having less secure devices like smart lights, or a smart stove or a smart sprinkler system? There is always the prank sort of hacking like disabling your lights or making your oven heat all day at high heat. But the real danger is that access to such devices might give a hacker access to everything else in your house.

Most of us use pretty good virus protection and other tools to lower the risk of somebody hacking into our computer systems to get access to personal information and banking and monetary systems. But what if a hacker can gain access to your computers through the backdoor of a smart light bulb or a smart refrigerator? This is not a far-fetched scenario. It was reported that the hack of Target that stole millions of credit card numbers was initiated by entry to the company’s heating and ventilation systems.

It’s obvious that these manufacturers are taking the fast path to market rather than taking the time to implement good security systems. But they must realize that they will not be forgiven if their device is the cause of multiple data breaches and that in the worst case their whole product line could dry up overnight. One would hope that efforts like the one just taken by HP will wake up the device makers. With that said, they face a formidable tasks since fixing an average of 25 security flaws is a big order.

 

Security for the Internet of Things

Monitor_(medical)We are quickly headed towards the Internet of thing where billions of devices will be connected to the Web. The biggest challenge in making this a reality is figuring out how to make the IoT secure. The world today is full of hackers. There are those that hack to find financial gain. There are cyberwars where government-sponsored hackers launch major attacks. And there are just general hackers who do it for the fun of creating mischief.

Today web security is a cat and mouse game between the hackers and security experts. Our PCs need almost daily updates to fight against newly discovered viruses which look to get around the virus checking programs.

The biggest challenge we face is that most of the devices that will be connected are not going to have large computing power like laptops and tablets. Instead we will have thermostats and smoke detectors and security cameras and medical monitors all connected to our home networks. And these devices have very rudimentary computing power, meaning that our current methods of security can’t be used to protect them.

But protect them we must because causing harm to these devices can cause real world damage. Imagine during the latest artic vortex is some hacker had turned off millions of thermostats and furnaces. This could have caused widespread problems, large dollar damages and even deaths. I don’t even want to think what might happen is somebody can hack into people’s medical devices. Perhaps murder by hacking? As we tie more and more of our daily life into devices that are connected to the web need to find solutions for protecting them.

And hackers are already starting to take notice of the weaknesses in our devices. In Brazil over 4.5 million DSL routers were hacked by people looking for credit card and banking information. There is a computer virus called DNS Changer that is attacking home routers in the US. There are already worms that are attacking things like security cameras and other embedded devices.

Security experts are working on the problem and there are several thoughts on the best way to keep our devices safe.

Safer Firmware. Most devices are operated with software called firmware. The security idea is to put this software onto a part of the chip that cannot be addressed from externally. Basically code the chip and throw away the key.

Cloud Security. Another idea is to limit each device to only being able to communicate with one source. This might be a specific cloud. This feels like a big company idea for a fix and it’s a bit scary, because if somebody can break into the cloud they have access to all of the machines that talk to it.

Government Fines. Today there is nearly zero security even considered for companies building IoT devices. They use old versions of open source Linux and out zero effort into making their devices safe. The thought is to impose big fines on manufacturers of IoT devices that get hacked as an incentive for them to do better.

We have to fix this or else there is going to be some really huge examples of hacking into devices that are going to scare the public off IoT. As we tie more and more of our life into our networks we all need to know that we are safe from being hacked by those with malicious intent.

The Latest in Home Security

Home security

Home security (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anybody following this blog knows that I have been promoting the ideas of telecom providers getting into the home security business. I see this as one of the ways that you are going to keep yourself relevant with the advent of the internet of things.

Modern Home security centers in the homes are already a lot more than that, and they can also be the platform used for home automation and energy management. There are numerous devices being made that function as the gateway to any ethernet device in your home that can be connected with wires or with wireless technologies. These main consuls then can interface with the user through smart phones or other such devices.

Of course home security still does the basic stuff. You can set up your house with monitors on doors and windows that will tell you when something changes. But modern security systems can do so much more. Here are some examples:

  • Everything can be tied into your smart phone so that you have access to your security system at all times. You can use your phone to change settings, to peek in on any of the cameras or even to speak with somebody who is at your front door even if you are not at home.
  • You can tie normal security features in with motion detectors. This will tell you if something is moving in a room that ought to be empty. But it can also do cool stuff like alert you when anybody approaches the external doors in your house. So rather than wait until somebody has broken in you can be alerted when somebody is at one of your doors. It’s not all that useful to know when the mailman comes every day, but it’s very comforting to know that you can be alerted when somebody is at your back door at 2:00 in the morning.
  • The systems can be tied into a number of other kinds of monitors. Certainly you can tie this into smoke detectors, but you can also monitor if the temperature changes drastically in any room. You can monitor for carbon monoxide levels (and if you are really paranoid, for many other kinds of chemicals and gases).
  • New systems include voice recognition and you can talk to your system. This allows you to change settings on the fly. For example, you can just tell your system that you will be working in a certain room and to ignore monitoring that room for a while. But your security system can then help with those absent-minded people like me. If you turn off the security in an area for a while, you can set it to ask you later if you still want it off.
  • Your system can get to know you. Sophisticated systems are starting to use things like face recognition and gait sensors so that your security system will know it’s you walking around on the lawn at midnight and not a stranger.
  • And it’s all cloud based, meaning that you can get an alert if the power goes out on your system while you are not at home. Turning off the power to a home has always been a common burglar technique for confounding a security system, but the system can be set to alert your smart phone every time the power goes out.
  • And of course, there are cameras to view or record everything. You can set your cameras up with some smarts to only view unusual events or events of a certain kind so that you are only storing views of things that matter. But the cameras give you the ability to monitor pets or babysitters while you are not at home. With cheap cloud storage you can record a lot of video.
  • There are now smart door locks that are tied to the security systems. These can use some combination of proximity to cell phone, voice or face recognition to allow keyless entry.
  • For those times when you drive away from home and can’t remember if you set the alarm a certain way, your system can be tied into your smart phone’s GPS and it can ask you if you want the alarms on once it senses you away from the home. Side benefit – you are always tracking the location of your cell phones if you want to see where your kids really are.
  • You customers can monitor it all themselves. It’s no longer necessary to have the security system tied into some center that will alert the police. A customer who is never without their smart phone can take a more active role and get all of the alerts if they so choose.

Most of these changes have been introduced within the last few years and one can imagine that many more changes will be coming in the next decade. So the best platform is one that is software driven and that can be upgraded to accept new devices and new features as they hit the market.

The Internet of Things is Here Today

Consider the following pricing chart from Vivint, one of the nationwide leaders in home security. This particular pricing chart happens to come from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

 Comparison Chart

This may not look like it, but this is the beginning of the Internet of Things and I think the way that Vivint has packaged this is brilliant. Just a few years ago this company and every company in the security business would have been selling only the features in the first column. But now they have added on energy management and home automation which are the first steps into the Internet of Things. To make this work they will install a gateway in the home that is capable of monitoring or communicating with the devices in the home and also communicating back with the cloud.

This is just the beginning. As more home-ready services are created Vivint will certainly add some of them on as enhancements to the packages listed or will create new packages. The next big field is already hinted in the last item, the medical pendant. We are not too far away from the time when sensors will be able monitoring your health and keeping a constant record of your heart beat, blood pressure and other vital signs. And a few years after that, micro sensors will be in your blood looking at your blood chemistry, looking for cancer etc.

A company like Vivint will have to decide what things they will support because the scope of the Internet of Things will become immense. It’s been predicted that much of the Internet of things will be done with Apps. But households still need the gateway and will want an expert to make sure things like security and smoke alarms are connected properly. I see a prominent role for businesses willing to go into the home to make sure that everything works well together.

Since there will be so many options in the Internet of Things it’s likely that a carrier will choose a few standardized packages that will fit a large percentage of the population and will leave customized packages to somebody else. For example, even today there are a ton of other options available in the energy management field and Vivint has chosen a few common options. Today a household can also do things like control blinds for allowing or blocking sunlight, coordinate ceiling fans, change the hot water heater settings dynamically during day, and interface with external solar panels.

I believe a lot of homes are going to want these services. I also know that customers will choose somebody they know and trust if given a choice of vendors. The Internet of Things is going to grow over time while traditional services like voice and cable TV wane. If you are going to survive as a carrier selling to households, then selling the Internet of Things needs to be in your portfolio.