Protecting your data in the age of smart homes

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In today's connected world of IoT, there is a clear trend of transferring as much user data as possible onto the cloud. This trend originated in the early 2000s amongst leading tech companies, and has since increased in popularity as we integrate connected devices and services into our homes. 

Nowadays, almost no developers would consider storing personal data locally on the device. Rather, it is more convenient for all of their information to be processed on one hub. However, is this concept truly suitable for their business – and, more importantly - safe for the end user, especially in today's IoT environment?

Cloudy and risky

The cloud business model bears many risks when using it in the smart home environment. Some companies may not even consider these risks when passing user data and control over their smart homes onto the cloud – just look at the vast number of data leaks over the past few years. 

For IoT companies, this problem usually arises because of management’s lack of understanding regarding the root causes of the problem. Since their main focus is usually designing and manufacturing the devices themselves, they don't have a full understanding of how to manage user data correctly and how to create the right internet-based software product.

To solve security issues and create a safe IoT environment, manufacturers must understand that they are not dealing with a solely internet-based product, such as email services or social networks. Instead, an IoT device has a microprocessor inside that can be used to process personal data and store it at the same time. This alone can provide the solution to protect billions of devices from being hacked at the same time.

The hardware route

Another solution is using the microprocessor to encrypt users’ sensitive data inside the devices, so that this information can be safely transported further through the internet – or, better yet, to transfer it directly to the user without cloud servers that are controlled by device manufacturer.

Encrypting and storing user data inside the device can be hugely beneficial not only for consumers, but also for IoT businesses themselves. On average, the processor of an IoT device is idle 60-70% of the time. Therefore as encryption is usually a non-recurring operation, this extra capacity can be efficiently used to protect user data.

Every device has an integrated NAND storage, which can easily store all the device settings, as well as encryption keys to access it. Local storage can also reduce cloud infrastructure costs, or even allow the business model to operate without the use of cloud infrastructures. If you go even further and closely integrate this concept with a mobile app, this will drastically increase the stability and the efficiency of the service as a whole.

The most significant advantage of this structure is that it hugely increases the security and safety of users in the smart home environment, without creating additional costs for the service provider.

This can even be a possibility with video data and neural networks. While some might say it is impossible to implement, there are some businesses that area ahead of the curve that can make video encryption and neural networks processing inside a local IoT device based on an inexpensive ARM processor a reality. 

Of course, there are some cases when an IoT manufacturer cannot work without a cloud-based infrastructure, however businesses should think twice before copying the cloud services model as a default option. If we stop for a minute and think about the user, we will see that in this environment, safety and security will be the competitive advantage that allows smart homes to become a reality in the near future.

  • Ruslan Vinahradau is CEO and founder of Zorachka, a developer of smart home solutions built for the future.