by Marco Tomko, GOTO Conferences

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IoT has huge potential for connecting smart cities – but closing off its security risks is crucial

Over the years, GOTO conferences have had experts at the forefront of IoT exploring changes to the way our urban environments function through the implementation of connected devices and how those changes are creating the cityscapes of the future.


The internet of things has been around since the 1980s as a concept, but the first widespread IoT application was seen less than 10 years ago with the introduction of Siri, the first voice assistant built into handheld devices to reach a wide audience. We’ve come a long way since then, to the point where people are now have enough robotic IoT devices in their homes to get the names mixed up.


People can now control lights in their homes, change the music on the radio and set their security alarms using voice commands, after a simple installation of a Raspberry Pi device. Yet IoT is so much more than voice control and gestures to change basic settings in our environment. IoT equals ecosystems – some isolated, some connected, and some ready to be connected in a near future.

Martin Woolley at GOTO Berlin 2018

True IoT is a combination of interconnected devices adapting their behaviour according to their environment and the results of their actions – as with buildings automated to change the heating, air ventilation, lighting or security based on the temperature or time of day, for example. IoT is certainly moving fast in the direction of interconnected smart buildings and cities, but what potential does this have in the grand scheme? What are companies working on to create metropolitan hubs of the future? Have we only been scratching the surface?


At GOTO Berlin 2018, Martin Woolley, BLE Wizard and Developer Relations Manager at Bluetooth SIG, introduced Bluetooth mesh networking, a new technology that plays a pivotal role in the development of emerging markets such as smart buildings, smart industries, smart cities and smart homes. Bluetooth mesh networking allows secure networks of thousands of devices to be formed, with truly smart, connected buildings as its primary application.


Today Bluetooth SIG has applications in more than 100 business and is expanding by the day. People now have the ability to control and automate whole office buildings, from the ventilation, lighting, air conditioning to security systems – with the same systems they would use at home, all communicating together from one central hub.


Smart cities are something to look forward to, but they need to be approached with caution. As more devices communicate with cloud-based systems, our world is getting smarter – but more connected devices also create new unforeseen risks, with security being the most prevalent.

Martin Gravråk at GOTO Berlin 2018

At GOTO Amsterdam 2018, software developers and experts in security Martin Gravråk and Kristian Løken Wille shared their insights into a series of interconnected kids’ toys they were hired to investigate. Their findings where shocking – toys in thousands of households had security flaws that allowed anyone to easily access and control them from a remote location. The hackers could record conversations, speak through them and have complete control over all of the toy’s functions.


These examples make it clear that security concerns will play a critical role when it comes to smart cities and reinforces how important security in IoT applications really is in order to prevent the potential hacking of a whole interconnected building – and, eventually, of whole interconnected cities.

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