The debate about the internet of things often centres on privacy, but here is why privacy on the internet of things doesn’t scare me as much as digital rights management.
I tend to suspect that issues relating to privacy on the internet of things will be sorted out as a result of consumer and government expectations enshrined in privacy regulations.
A key capability that is enabled by the internet of things is that vendors can keep charging us for services related to their device. One reason why businesses are so excited by the internet of things is it allows them to move from selling a device as a one-off sale and towards ongoing fees for services associated with that device.
This phenomenon will enable internet of things companies to increase their revenue streams and to drive sales of additional services. Thus the value of an internet of things device is not so much in the hardware as in the software and services.
Take the pacemaker as an example. If you have a pacemaker installed and the vendor decides to charge a monthly service fee to keep the device going, what happens if you miss a payment? If the vendor has, very sensibly, implemented digital rights management on your pacemaker service then they will be able to turn it off if you miss a few payments.
If this sounds far fetched, it’s not, it is already here. Last December I test drove a new electric car, the Renault Zoe, at a conference in Paris. This car has implemented digital rights management.
If you do not pay the ongoing rental fee on the battery for your Renault Zoe then you will not be allowed to recharge the battery.
Also, chipmaker FTDI,whose chips are found in many consumer electronics products, recently announced that they will kill third party chips remotely via driver updates. This will likely render useless the devices that consumers have purchased in good faith which have counterfeit chips installed.
This is why digital rights management scares me more than privacy in the brave new world of the internet of things.
Welcome to the digital revolution and our networked future.