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Internet things

Bruno Peron, 23 March 2017

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Many people experience the Internet of Things, but few know what it really is. The expression Internet of Things was proposed in 1999 by Kevin Ashton from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This phenomenon is not as recent as the growth of virtual groups and social networks, and the massive use of smartphones. The Internet of Things is a technological progress that allows integrating into the Internet many devices which are used in our daily lives; for example: cars, surveillance cameras, home appliances, smart watches, special glasses, televisions, doorknobs, lifts.

The number of connections grows exponentially at the time the number of people connected is getting lower than that of electronic devices. Thus, the estimate is that fifteen billion of these devices are currently connected to the Internet in the world. This is a number that exceeds that of inhabitants in this planet (which is over seven billion) for the reason that each person will have its computer, its mobile phone, its television, its fridge, and more day-to-day appliances linked to the worldwide computer network.

By the way, the reference to the Internet as a computer network is limited to what it used to be in its infancy. Nowadays, the Internet has integrated people, communities, applications and more and more things (or devices) in general. This explains why Kevin Ashton’s concept is more pertinent to understand the Internet’s most current technological phase. In this, the goal is to integrate the highest number of devices and to transform technology into a motivator of human faculties.

So far, everything is going well. The Internet has made considerable progresses, even in countries which are not of scientific and technological vanguard. Yet, it is fundamental to discuss the effects of these technological attractions and the damages they may cause in Internet users. For this purpose, the Brazilian government promoted a public consultation, which lasted from mid-December 2016 until 6 February 2017; the deadline has been extended. The objective of this procedure is to collect information from Brazil’s population to develop the National Plan of the Internet of Things (Plano Nacional de Internet das Coisas, as in Portuguese). The website participa.brreceived more than 22.000 accesses and 2.288 suggestions aiming at the National Plan of the Internet of Things and at the government’s intention to follow cautiously such technological development in Brazil.

It is true that Brazil is not the only country whose rulers are concerned with new technologies. Some time ago, Germany demonstrated its restlessness regarding spy reports. Though, what worries the most in Brazil is that well-paid civil servants and public managers get more prepared to censor, to curb and to regulate than to promote the competitiveness of our companies and of our businesses. Therefore, we often put ourselves as recipients in a defensive position against new technologies coming from abroad.

Nevertheless, this debate focuses on themes such as privacy (users’ habits and the commercial use of information without their authorisation) and security (virtual crimes and risk of harm to people). And this is not only in countries which absorb technologies coming from abroad, such as Brazil. It is important to mention, among many other examples, that the mobile phone tracker (widely known as the GPS) already knows our daily routes (where we stay most of our time, our paths from home to work); and that our musical tastes and contact lists are shared each time we install an application. Besides, a malicious person can change the password of the doorknob through remote access.

Brazil has shown to be vulnerable to the propagation of the Internet of Things due to phenomena such as WhatsApp Effect. This changes the routine and the way of living of all social classes and allows a digital inclusion that had not been possible, not even with government’s intervention. This democratisation was only viable with a technology coming from another country (in reference to WhatsApp). The Brazilian government would use public funds to protect the local telephone corporations, as it has done by blocking WhatsApp a few times. Today, anybody can make free phone calls, speak to other people through conference calls, send and receive messages and recordings. Naturally, the Brazilian government inquires why it cannot be so subtly controller and invasive such as these technological resources. It is up to us to experiment the Internet of Things, but also to ponder upon it. Internet things.