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Internet of Wireless Things

Pundits say that the next big thing on the Internet will be a lot of little things, which will amount to 100 billion devices by 2020. The little things will include embedded devices such as sensors that continuously monitor and report on discreet objects such as appliances as well as the human condition and communicate status updates via RFID, Near Field Communication, and Wi-Fi to web services that will extend the processing power, storage capabilities, and reporting functions of these little things.

Assuming that people are not going to plug their own monitoring devices into an Ethernet network and that they will not rewire their homes to support wiring closets, patch panels, and conduits filled with Cat 5 and 6 Ethernet cables , devices will connect to the Internet via radio frequency and the Internet of Things will become the Internet of Wireless Things (IoWT). The IoWT will enable objects or sensors to get information about their status, position, and environmental conditions, interact with other objects around them, and provide access to the aggregate information for comparative analysis.

The internet and web applications like Facebook and Twitter today connect people with other people, goods, and services. To help us control who has access to our personal, financial, and health information, websites have privacy policies as well as technical security controls, which include Wi-Fi controls, that organizations and individuals must implement to comply with federal laws like the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act and industry standards like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

Focusing on the health care industry, in the next phase of the internet devices will gather information from us and our environment, communicate and exchange data with other devices, and report information so individuals or their health care providers can make informed decisions. But who controls access to device information and how is data transmitted to other devices? These are hotly contested issues that require dialogue and updates to HIPAA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations as well as Wi-Fi security controls. For example, patients who have implanted medical devices can't access the raw information generated and transmitted by their own defibrillator implants.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, medical device manufacturers are only required to transmit device status information and patient health information to a patient's doctor or health care provider. Device manufacturers argue that the raw data are not usable by patients and that to make it usable would require FDA approval and significant investment in the reporting capabilities of the devices, which may increase costs and device maintenance. Furthermore, raw data from an implanted medical device are not protected health information under HIPAA that gives patients the right to access it.

Regardless of who owns the data generated by human sensors, devices that interact on the Internet with other devices can be increasingly valuable to their owners without having to "jailbreak" them to extract all the data. Vitality GlowCaps, for example, uses light, sound signals, and even a telephone call to remind individuals when to take their medicine. The service can also inform a doctor or family if a patient or family member is consistently taking their medicine. On-body sensors that track vital signs can be found in smartphones, wristwatches, and wearable gadgets such as smart clothing and shoes.

Sensors with more intelligence can understand a body's context and location such as a kitchen or bathroom, which can be associated with an activity. Sensors can identify body motion and gestures and determine if there is social interaction. Add the information available from other objects in the area, e.g., open windows or doors, room temperature, furniture locations, and the aggregated information has the potential to provide unprecedented human support for the disabled or others in need of health care, but also portends the pervasive monitoring that can compromise privacy and protected health information.

The information generated from the Internet of Wireless Things will create big data to help maintain objects or things in our environment as well as support human and health services. But the IoWT also portends that individuals will no longer control their information without new laws and regulations that detail object-generated data ownership and regulate secure data transmission over radio frequency and Wi-Fi.

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