Fifteen billion online devices by 2015

The internet of things is coming, and it’s not just the CIA who are excited.

Last week Intel, the chip manufacturer, predicted that by 2015 there will be more than 15 billion internet-connected devices and one third of these connected devices will be intelligent systems.

The CIA are already getting excited, with Director David Petraeus talking about the”transformational” effect on “clandestine tradecraft.” The proposed draft Communications Data Bill is so broadly drafted it’s been warned that a system to control your central heating could be covered by the legislation.

We’re already seeing the first tentacles of this phenomenon moving into British homes, in the guise of smart meters. We’ve previously highlighted the serious privacy issues these devices raise, while others are warning that the project is set to be a multi-billion pound IT catastrophe. The Kernel recently warned the scheme was a ‘deadly home energy legacy‘ left by Ed Miliband.

In the coming years everything from lightbulbs to watches, clothes and fridge will be shipped internet-ready, communicating with you and your control devices in real time. They’ll be the very fabric of our homes and our society, but are we missing sight of the risks this poses?

The question of who’s looking at the data, and what is happening to it, is set to become a defining question for the internet of things. The eutopian promise of easy living, lower bills and everything being a smartphone app away from you control is one that’s premised on the user being in control of their data. However, from the early steps of smartphones and apps, we’ve already seen a wholesale outsourcing of privacy to vendors, with a generation of young people growing up with no concept of the value of their data. Equally, the lack of awareness about how data is used and retained long into the future is a concern that we will be working to address in the coming months.

Whether it’s the way Google combines keywords in your email with data on what YouTube videos you watch, or how insurers are now finding ways to access your supermarket loyalty card information, this is just the tip of the iceberg. With information about when you watch TV or run a bath, how often you boil the kettle and what time you turn the lights out becoming available, our lives will be detailed in fine granularity and who has access to that data is far from clear.

Moreso, the degree of control we surrender to these devices, from minor issues of turning the lights off when you forget to to broader ones of remote-controlled access to operation of an entire household’s devices could be the foundation for significant national security concerns.

It’s urgently becoming clear that the business case and privacy regulation for smart meters needs reviewing, and a proper framework put in place to ensure privacy is protected in the age of the internet of things.


  1. Chris
    20th September 2012

    I don’t want anyone else to control access to my data because I don’t trust them to keep it private or even correct it if a mistake is made. (Think of the problems when switching banks/power suppliers/phone companies.)

    Microsoft has developed technology so you only reveal the minimum required for the purpose (e.g. proving I’m an adult without revealing my age or birthday.) We should be using it.

  2. anon
    21st September 2012

    Just because these things are possible does not make them desirable. The biggest problem with data is that those who are supposed to guard it, don’t, and they have little or no comprehension on the impact when data is processed without consent or a full understanding of how it will be processed and for what purposes. Technology is moving so quickly and not because we need it but because it can – what a pity that how we care for or treat our fellow human beings cannot advance as quickly.

  3. Yoyo
    21st September 2012

    I feel scared by just reading this. This is the real problem, the promise of such technology as opposed to the reality. If you suggest an issue over and over again it becomes a crisis, over time the suggestion becomes fact. Whilst I don’t deny the ability, the intent appears to be a psyops campaign. Why spend all that money and effort to implement what people believe already exists?

  4. Fifteen Billion Online Devices by 2015 « Engineering Evil
    23rd September 2012

    […] Share this:PrintDiggEmail Pin ItShare on TumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged: Communications Data Bill, David Petraeus, Ed Miliband, Google, Intel, Internet of Things, Privacy, YouTube Posted in: Artificial Neural Network (ANN), Autonomous, Internet, Security, Societal, Technology ← China delays approval of working visas Be the first to start a conversation […]

  5. billybloggs
    24th September 2012

    Smart meters are a broken crock of sh1t

  6. Smart meter or spy box? | TheTechSnob.
    20th October 2013

    […] Are these wireless digital utility meters, that broadcast our energy usage, a huge technological advance, or are they really a potential ”hornets nest”?  […]


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