Rogers Communications this week introduced what it is calling the “Internet of Things as Service”. The offering combines two of the hottest buzz phrases in tech, IoT and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
But will it mean anything to Canadians?
Rogers says it will launch two products, Farm & Food Monitoring and Level Monitoring (measuring things like fuel tanks, which need to be refilled often) through partner blueRover.
Waterloo’s blueRover is all in on the Internet of Things. The company gained notoriety with a product called SafeFood, which helps restaurants comply with the Food Safety for Canadians Act by taking temperature readings in refrigerators, freezers and ovens and then sending the data to the cloud for storage and analysis. It also has a fire hydrant monitoring solution that checks hydrant infrastructure for leaks and knows whether or not water pressure is sufficient for use in emergencies.
Rogers says its foray into IoT will simplify the lives of those who use its products.
“Connectivity is now table stakes today when it comes to supporting the Internet of Things –for Canadian businesses to drive real productivity with this technology, they need solutions that are simple to deploy and manage,” says Rogers spokesman Charlie Wade. “With blueRover, we’re bringing connectivity, monitoring and management of IoT solutions in-house so our customers can focus on running their business while we take care of managing the day-to-day.”
So what’s in all this for Rogers? Simple. Sensors talking to each other means the company is driving more traffic to its wireless network, which it has invested billions in.
Networks all over the world, Rogers’ included, are already jammed with mobile devices using things like location-based apps and gaming data and Netflix, which accounts for a whopping 34% of downstream traffic during peak evening hours. But Rogers sees profit in expanding its wireless footprint, as did recently in B.C., pouring nearly a half-billion into LTE service there.
IDC Research Director Nigel Wallis, who says 45 per cent of Canadian business are currently deploying IoT solutions, cheered the move by Rogers.
“By offering IoT solutions as a Service, Rogers, together with blueRover, have the potential to drive adoption of IoT solutions by removing the burden of managing these complex solutions for Canadian businesses.”
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But what does the expansion of the Internet of Things means to the average Canadian? If we are to believe most of what we read, it will mean a utopic Jetson-like future, replete with robot maids and nine-hour work weeks. Granted, one would have to be the ultimate Luddite to think that there aren’t advances coming from the Internet of Things that will make everyone’s life simply better. But that’s only half the story.
Most technologies present their benefits to us in the form of tradeoffs. Cell phones keep us connected but present a constant distraction, for instance.
But the Internet of Things, in particular, is a veritable Trojan Horse of compromises. What happens when a hacker unlocks your internet-connected door, hacks your baby monitor, or remotely starts your Kia Rondo while it is sitting in your driveway? Things go from cool to creepy pretty quickly.
“These types of threats are not merely speculative,” says Mike Armistead, a security expert at HP. “Vulnerabilities have been found and documented in several Internet-connected modules installed in cars, medical devices and children’s toys.”
These are the very real big brother scenarios that plague the Internet of Things, but there’s another more mundane outcome.
Someday in the not too distant future you will be rushing into the kitchen, already late for work. You will take two slices of bread and place them in the toaster only to be greeted by the message “ToastMaster not functional. Please download update 1.8.1.” At that moment, it would be unwise for Rogers or anyone to try and talk to you about the glorious benefits of the Internet of Things.
Below: Rogers Enterprise Expert Series: Eric Simmons