Publisher’s Window: September/October 2015
<!–– The Internet of Things ––>

Here we go with a new catch phrase. First it was the Internet, now it’s the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Wikipedia, “things” in this case are physical objects “embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to collect and exchange data.” These things can refer to devices such as heart-monitoring implants and the sensors in the cars that we drive.

Cardinal Health recently announced the opening of a research and development facility to serve as a hub for the company to bring creative, acute-care-centered technologies to healthcare. Specifically, the new facility will be dedicated to reducing the $5 billion in waste in the healthcare supply chain for devices and implantables. In commenting on the opening of Cardinal Health’s Healthcare Supply Chain Innovation Lab, Jean-Claude Saghbini, VP and general manager for Cardinal Health, stated: “In a rapidly growing network of smart devices communicating with each other, IoT has gained significant traction in healthcare, and while much of healthcare’s IoT focus has centered on patient-monitoring applications, we believe the medical devices and implantables are ripe for an IoT approach.”

There is no question that healthcare can benefit from remote patient monitoring and emergency notifications. The use of wearable heart monitors that can send readings to a physician’s smartphone is a good example. The term Internet of Things came from a British entrepreneur by the name of Kevin Ashton in 1999, according to Wikipedia. Come the year 2020 it is estimated that the IoT will consist of 50 billion objects worldwide. The popularity of the IoT started in 1999, in part through the Auto-ID Center at MIT. Radio frequency identification (RFID) was considered by many as a precursor to the IoT. If all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, computers could manage and inventory them.

But a New York Times article (Aug. 11, 2015), authored by Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, pointed out the security risks with the IoT. We have all heard or read about the two hackers using laptop computers to shut down a Jeep Cherokee while it was on an Interstate going 70 mph. This was done as a prearranged publicity stunt to prove a point, according to Tufekci.

Tufekci points out that “the modern automobile is run by dozens of computers that most manufacturers connect using a system that is old and known to be insecure. That means once a hacker is in, she’s in everywhere — engine, transmission, and brakes, not just the entertainment system.”

Cybersecurity is going to take on increasing importance as more IoT objects configured with software and connected to digital networks come to market. Without strong security measures in place, we all could be vulnerable to unintended consequences. CT