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Vending Machines and the Internet of Things

Vending Machines and the Internet of Things - The Beacon


By: Jackie

Vending Machines and the Internet of Things

One more “thing” to add to the Internet of Things (IoT)! What is the IoT, you ask? Well, your BBB has done some research, and this is what we found. Techopedia defines the IoT as a concept in which every day physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices—think glasses, clothing, watches, cars, toilets, bicycles, pills, light bulbs, smoke detectors, etc. A simple explanation from Techopedia is that while the first version of the Internet was about data created by people, this next version is about data created by things.

Now back to vending machines. Intel and Microsoft have both developed vending machines that are connected to the Internet, that can take your picture, determine your gender, estimate your age, remember what product you previously purchased, anticipate what product you will select and deliver it, and then hit you with personalized ads. They also have or will have touch-screen controls, video, audio, scent, gesture-based interaction, and cashless payment. A press release from Intel says that the new intelligent vending machines can “make the purchasing experience more personal, interactive and fun for consumers while allowing brands and operators to utilize new business opportunities, cloud services and data analytics.”

According to Pepsi, consumers can play games, watch commercials and videos, send digital gift coupons for drinks to friends, and charge their mobile devices on the new Pepsi Interactive Vending Machines. They are being piloted in several cities in the U.S. and also at four locations at Penn State University in Pennsylvania.

More and more of the biggest tech giants are scrambling to enter the IoT race. Technology writer Lisa Vaas, in a post on Sophos IT Security Company’s blog, writes that a recently released Securities and Exchange Commission (SES) filing shows that Google expects advertising to creep into every crevice of the IoT. At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference going on right now, Apple unveiled, among other things, its HomeKit which uses a common network protocol to allow consumers to control the lights, door locks, web cams, garage doors, kitchen gadgets, thermostats, etc. in their homes using Siri on their iPhones.

As reported in ZD Net, a business technology news website published by CBS, a tech research firm called Gartner estimates that the IoT market will be worth $7.1 trillion by 2020. Networking equipment maker Cisco estimates that by 2020 there will be as much as 50 billion Internet connected devices. Just think of all the data these 50 billion devices will be collecting—what TV programs you watch, what time you go to sleep at night and get up in the morning, are you eating healthy meals, how much exercise you get each day, what websites you visit, where you shop, what you buy, and the list goes on and on.

Privacy experts are concerned not only about hackers stealing our intimate, personal data, but about attackers taking control of the devices. Any Internet-enabled device with an operating system comes with the possibility of being compromised and becoming a backdoor for attackers. Andrew Chen, a computer information systems professor at Minnesota State University was quoted in an article in the May 19, 2014 issue of Wired, “The danger will be in loss of privacy and a reduction of people into numbers: the dark side of the quantified self.” In the same article Peter R. Jacoby, an English professor at San Diego Mesa College, summed up this line of thought bluntly: “By 2025, we will have long ago given up our privacy. The Internet of Things will demand–and we will give willingly–our souls.”

So, how to keep that vending machine from collecting personal information from you? Right now, you can’t. What can ordinary consumers do to protect the data that’s being compiled by the smart devices in their own homes? Short of not purchasing any of the new intelligent objects, here are a few tips:

*Use layered security programs;

*Make sure your devices are capable of remote wiping or of disabling their connectivity;

*Update your devices regularly;

*Maintain the highest security and strength of administrative passwords and change them regularly;

*Make sure your system is capable of isolating the various devices in case of a security breach;

*Make sure your data is encrypted as your devices communicate with one another and with the Internet.

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.