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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Defriending Your Smart Device | @ThingsExpo [#IoT]

Now is the time to make de-provisioning of smart objects part of the IoT discussion

The Internet of Things is already changing the way we track fitness, manage our homes, and drive our cars. But while there is considerable discussion around how we securely provision our devices and who will have access to the data they capture, an important topic no one seems to be talking much about is the de-provisioning of smart objects. What happens when I ditch my Fitbit, trade in my connected car, or sell my house with its Nest thermostat, smart fridge and next-generation home security system? How do I manage to remove these smart devices from my life and make sure that no one has access to the data they have captured?

As the universe of connected things grows exponentially, so will the number of smart objects in our daily lives. Yes, one or two connected things may be easy to manage. But if we are expected to reach a point where nearly all the objects in our lives are capturing information about us - from cars and appliances to watches and clothing - we will need a simple way to manage all our connected things and to safely say goodbye to objects that have outlived their usefulness.

Ideally, managing smart devices should be as simple as managing friends on Facebook, where a single click controls what they see of our personal lives or removes them from our social network altogether. And just as Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks are platforms of a sort, it is sensible for manufacturers, consumers and service providers to start thinking in terms of a central cloud-based platform for managing devices and the connected experience.

Why a Platform
Cloud-based platforms centralize service delivery, security and policies. They enable consistent user experiences. And they scale extraordinarily cost-effectively. These are all attributes that need to be baked into the way we interact with our growing array of smart devices.

A platform for managing connected things would perform the following key tasks:

  1. Managing digital identities: Identity management is the bedrock of ensuring privacy in this connected age. It is integral to determining whether you truly are the owner/administrator of the device, and if you have permission to access its collected data, override its settings or de-commission it. This holds true whether you are attempting to erase data remotely from all the components in your stolen car or smart watch, or wipe away your user persona and remove data from all the objects in your just-sold house. Of course, people are not the only entities with digital identities. Each object in the expanding digisphere has one too, and they all must be managed. Effective identity management includes dynamically authenticating a user's request to access particular information based on pre-specified trust levels, locations, timing, nature of requests and other variables.
  2. Managing rules and policies: Device owners and authorized users, as well as device providers (OEMs, utilities, employers, healthcare providers, etc.), need an easy way to set rules and policies regarding usage, data collection and access, and de-provisioning. They also need an easy way to change these rules and policies when necessary. Multiplied across thousands of connected objects, this is a daunting task that a cloud-based platform can simplify while scaling to handle the growing challenge.
  3. Keeping it simple and consistent for the user: When all is said and done, the user is at the center of the connected ecosystem. Thus the idea is to make things simple and effective for each user - that "one-click defriending" thing again - across as many connected devices as possible in a standardized fashion. An individual appliance, automotive or electronics OEM can try to tackle the challenge across all the devices it makes, but won't be able to even come close to covering every connected device a consumer ends up using. As a result, industry and cross-industry partnerships will be crucial to ensure standardization. Third-party service providers have an opportunity here as well, along the lines of today's universal password services. Keep in mind that no matter how good an OEM is in making a smart thermostat or connected car, developing security protocols and identity management capabilities in-house is not their core competence (and it is also a costly, time-consuming and risky proposition). Agreeing on standards, forming partnerships and consortiums and involving parties that do have cross-industry competence in consumer-friendly digital security platforms are essential.

While we began this piece talking about defriending smart devices, a clean and easy breakup is clearly not the only virtue of a platform approach to managing these devices. From a consumer perspective, I also look forward to having a greater say into where my data goes and what other devices it may be shared with. A platform approach has the potential to give me that across all my devices. OEMs can anticipate providing consumers with a smoother and more satisfying digital experience, and in doing so in a cost-effective self-service manner. And privacy advocates and the enforcers of compliance mandates should be pleased as well.

Breaking up can be messy, in both the real world and the digital world. But if we start the discussion now about the de-provisioning of smart objects, and the empowering of users to manage their relationships with the IoT, there is hope yet for our digital world.

More Stories By David Miller

David Miller, Covisint’s Chief Security Officer, is an internationally renowned security thought leader recently named by FORTUNE magazine as an “identity visionary”. He has more than 20 years of experience in identity management and information technology. He is Chief Security Officer for Covisint, where he is responsible for internal and external system architecture security issues for e-business exchange.

In addition, Miller directs the identity management offering at Covisint, which currently secures access for automotive, healthcare, energy and government customers. He has spoken at numerous conferences in various industries and has also spoke before the U.S. Senate regarding e-prescribing of controlled substances.

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