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Toward an Internet of Caring Things

We have seen the scary future – and it is behind the firewall.  Let’s say it: The Internet of Things almost seemed useful – smart objects connected together was once a great marketing tag line. Now it is becoming an Orwellian nightmare, not just because Google can drive the car while you text. Now we know your car has millions of lines of code in it and is easily hacked by two guys on a couch with a laptop. Volkswagen’s internal hacking, uh, deception to meet emissions standards has given visibility to the Internet of Cheating Things, not to mention the Internet of Hacked Things (from drones!!), and Scammed Things (from the refrigerator!!). And just think how obsolete CES "crap gadgets" will seem after the 2016 CES – the real tech news will be these long-distance and unwelcome invaders from afar, redirecting gadgets on the show floor.

Let’s reminisce about the old world of tech for seniors. At one time a cell phone just made phone calls, not easily invaded by malware or hacker-placed ads. Sensor-based monitoring hardware and PERS devices communicated in proprietary protocols to nearby base stations/units – analytics were rudimentary. The round wall-mounted thermostat only allowed a person who was inside the house to adjust the in-home temperature. The device was unable and unwilling to send it anywhere. One day, the world changed – and now, to avoid confusion with the mainstream, the old-fashioned thermostat must be explicitly described as non-programmable! And of course, e-mail and enlarged screens were state-of-the-art improvements.  

The software ecosystem (or lack of it) undermines the senior-related industries. The world of enterprise software is more obviously vulnerable this year than ever:  Identity theft, fraudulent refunds, insurance company hacks -- all these point to weakness in software systems and precipitate the meteoric rise of IT security software and it's must-have side-kick, IT Security consulting. But hospitals and their rehab units, assisted living communities, nursing homes, home care and home health agencies, 55+ housing – those are also enterprises. Do they have such software? Hire such consultants? Keep up with the latest threats emanating from and encompassing data spewed by medical devices? Doubtful.

What should an Internet of Caring Things for older adults be like? Given the IoT device chaos today, perhaps more caution is required before extending IoT hype to healthcare, home care, or senior housing. The Internet of (truly) Caring Things would only permit devices to join that have been through device security basic training – complying with a future software standard allowing them to be part of a caring network. This IoCT would require new entrants to register to join the network. There would be a substantial upgrade in threat detection of who or what should not be allowed in – not today's retrospective apology of oops, they got in. There would be a process for departing from the network, not just moving a still-chattering device into a supply closet. Software debugging would be upgraded so that cars, phones, and tablets would offer fewer surprises and unanticipated upgrades. Processes would even be validated as minimally matching their own stated intent. And in the very lengthy meantime, those chartered with care of older adults will show caution about striving to achieve the state of technology art.


How unique. . .  a phone that is for talking to people.  And then thinking that software should be tested.  I know sarcasm gets you no place but clearly we really need several levels of services - a very straight forward type that does what it says it does and one that is 'more advanced'. I've decided that straight forward should be tested and one takes their chances with the 'more advanced' as the suppliers want us to do their job - test their stuff for them.  Tell you a secret. . . testing is a dirty word!!

Check it out -- the fact that the report even acknowledges that people may age -- a breakthrough.

The Smart Home Finally Blossoms -- by Frank Gillett.