Restart Radio Takeover: 'Smart' gadgets - the hype and worries about IoT


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Download episode (41 MB) or listen on Soundcloud

Our volunteers @Dave , @Panda and Andrew run the show, discussing the hype about the Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘smart’ homes. We talk about related issues of security when using these connected devices.

First, Dave takes us through some tech news. We start citing some recent research into batteries that could be charged faster, and also Trump’s support for the merger of US TV stations Sinclair and Tribune Media. We then talk about how in South Korea Samsung has finally agreed to accept arbitration over the leukemia cases affecting workers at its plans, first reported 10 years ago. This is a longstanding problem with other electronics companies as well, associated with the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing gadgets.

We then turn to the recent Huawei’s PR-stunt: people were promised a free Huawei smartphone in return for just literally smashing their ‘old’ (non-Huawei) ones at their Soho store in London. Not only is this mindless consumption but an awful contribution to the growing problem of ewaste (see our post below). Our volunteers also warn that hammering these phones could also be quite unsafe due to the risk of explosions when mishandling their lithium batteries.

Next, we talk about the Internet of Things (or, as Panda called it, ‘the Internet of Sh*t’) and smart homes (which also work thanks to IoT technology). Andrew shares how back in the 2000s, before these products were commercialised, he set up a smart home himself. Having to spend much time abroad for work, he wanted a system to keep track of his home remotely, or to switch on the heating on his way back. We also talk about how doing things yourself makes you very invested in the technology - Andrew managed to reduce his electricity bill by 55%! Also, not relying on a company gives him more control over his data, and he doesn’t have to worry about companies’ system failures, which can temporarily leave costumers without control or even access to their homes.

We then reflect on questions of durability and security of IoT devices: how long will connected gadgets last? How long will they be supported with security updates? While these technologies have potential benefits such as using our electricity more efficiently, we need to be aware of associated risks related to security. For example, the mere usage of these devices can leak much information, to the extent that researchers have found a link between smart meters tracking and what TV shows you watch!

More worryingly, there is the threat of other people taking control of your devices. For example the InControl app available to Jaguar Land Rover car users, which could be used by former owners if not unbound, potentially tracking or unlocking the car’s doors. We also discuss the issue of ‘IoT gaslighting’: some people are reporting having their house controlled by ex-partners: lighting, heating or even door locks. Also, disconnecting the devices can lead to further violence by the abuser. We end up discussing what is a ‘smart’ device. Our gadgets are becoming more technologically advanced, yet connected devices are part of a network which can be hacked. Not to mention other not-so-advanced devices, such as smart locks, which can be hacked using Bluetooth, or just… a screwdriver!



[Featured image from Circuit Basics]


Where can we find out more about Andrew’s pre-IOT, self-hosted connected home? It sounds like the FOSS version of a smart home and I’d be interested to hear more, and how doing it this way might answer (or not) some of the longevity and security concerns.

(Also @Steve_Cook has done a few smart home hacks he could share…)


Also, an absurd related thread:

The Airbnb owner literally went out and bought IKEA lamps as a “solution” to the home automation breakdown.


A mediation plan has been completed: Arbitration committee for Samsung’s leukemia outbreak proposes final mediation plan.


I’m excited to listen to this. I have often wondered and even talked about some of the hazards of a smart home that could hacked and controlled by someone else, but I never thought about ex’s or abusive relationships. I have loved every episode so far and this one has a subject that I am very interested and invested in, as an owner of a few Alexa devices.


Hi @Darin, I hope you enjoyed the episode! If you are interested in more info about smart gadgets and domestic violence, you might want to check this other project I am working on: Gender and IoT


@isabel, I really enjoyed it. As a white male, I can acknowledge that there are issues that I will never deal with that others see on a nearly daily basis. As a husband and father of a girl, I try to keep myself aware of some of the things they have to deal with. Technology is advancing so fast that we can’t even try to prevent potential problems before they begin. It is a crazy time to be alive and o am glad to see that there are people who are trying to solve these new problems.


Thanks @Panda, we’ll discuss on next week’s radio show.