The internet of dumb, nasty things is on the way

Machines – we can’t live without them, but they’re about to gang up on us and do us in. Nick Booth is worried

Research company Ovum this week forecast that the machine-to-machine (M2M) sector will grown by 22.6% annually. In five year’s time the number of global M2M connections will have surged from 106.4 million in 2012 to 360.9 million in 2018.

The fastest growth, according to Ovum analyst Jeremy Green, will be in APAC and the MEA. But, if the recent storms and floods have taught us anything, it’s that we could use some decent automated responses to events here in the UK. Surely, there’s massive scope for someone to marshall an army of machines together and programme it to launch into action the next time the rivers burst their banks and the sea breaks through our defences.

Humans, it appears, lack the will to respond. Though the human brain is still the most sophisticated intelligence system in the entire universe, we seemed to be happy to surrender control of everything to the internet. If that’s not working, we give up, according to Barrett Lyon, CTO of, who has written a white paper that warns of the danger of our complete subservience to the net.

Everything we do now is entirely reliant on connectivity, he points out. Banking, taxing, voting, trading and even communicating can grind to a halt if the system goes down, he warns, in DDoS 2015: Understanding the Current and Pending DDoS Threat Landscape.

The problem that Lyon warns about is that the rise of the machines – dumb as they so often are – gives internet fiends ever more scope to mount malicious attacks. Worse still, most companies have no plan for when the IT goes down. Most people are now completely hopeless – incapable of independent thought - without a computer. If the system goes down, they grind to a halt too.

That lack of initiative is all too evident in our reaction to floods. Surely we should be out there capturing rainfall and storing it before it accumulates and surges downstream and ruins people’s lives. If we’re now too stupid to do this ourselves, maybe the M2M experts can put some systems in place.

So where do we start?

DataStax, the company behind the Cassandra NoSQL database is working with a range of companies on M2M and Internet of Things projects and is expanding its channel programme worldwide. As is another NewSQL pioneer, NuoDB.

These are database platforms build for large scale applications that create lots of real-time data. NuoDB claims to have cracked the problems that make telephony impossible to run over a cloud computing infrastructure.

Companies need to understand what they are going to do with all that data with all this distributed data and how they will handle it. This creates massive opportunities for the channel. Their expertise is needed so that all these machines out there can be marshalled together to help us respond to all this threatening weather – rather than act as denial of service attackers.

Radio manufacturer and systems designer Simoco is looking for partners who can use radio, rather than on cellular networks, to call machines to arms and fight on our side. There are massive opportunities in the utilities, mining, transport, oil and gas sectors, according to Simoco CTO Andy Grimmett

Though internet connected machines are going to be useful idiots to the criminals and hostile governments that want to wage war against us, they do have some advantages over humans, according to Richard Moulds, VP of strategy at Thales e-Security. At least they are not malicious and they don’t tell secrets. “Machines have no intelligence, intuition or innate ability to be cautious like humans do – they are therefore unlikely to detect a phishing email or attack on a gut feeling,” says Moulds. “The upside of machines is their constant availability – without the elements of human error, fatigue or varying standards of skill or ability.”

Besides, humans don’t use their initiative any more. No wonder the machines are taking over the internet.

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