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My pal Dave has a beautiful home with a large pool behind it. The pool has an artificial waterfall that he can turn on and off via his iPhone. He can also monitor the pool’s temperature and several other features.
Dave and his wife each drive a recent-vintage BMW, and both cars have 50-100 microprocessors in the main computer controlling fuel flow, tire pressure, steering, braking and dozens of other functions.
The pool, the cars and a whole lot of other devices in their home are the beginning of what’s called the Internet of Things. These are the billions of devices linked wirelessly to the Internet and capable of communicating with each other. At some point, the Internet of Things will control essentially every device you own, from your toaster to your car.
And there’s the rub. Forget about machines taking over the world. The cynics among us have no problem imagining a future that’s more like a really annoying Rube Goldberg world where you have to get permission from your television and refrigerator before using the bathroom. But you can’t hear what the refrigerator is telling you because it’s drowned out by the noise of the rotors of the mini-drones shining neon ads at you while they deliver the groceries, mail and more.
Of course, where communication is possible, miscommunication will happen. As always, Murphy’s Law governs: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
Now, take that to the next level. Every year, cars are more elaborately equipped with GPS, infotainment systems that connect to the Internet and much more. Many already communicate wirelessly with dealers, service centers and emergency road services. Companies such as Google and Apple are building autonomous cars that will take passengers, no longer drivers, wherever they want to go.
Because the computers that run cars can communicate over the Internet, unauthorized third parties, many with malicious intent, can communicate with them, hack into their software and take control.