Got milk? Fridges will let you know

Refrigerators may soon contract viruses and malware, much like a computer can.

The refrigerator could let people know remotely when they are running low on milk as part of the rapid advance of the internet.

Within five years, people could be receiving more texts from machines than from humans, according to Kevin Curran.

He said security should be the main priority for connected devices — especially since it is difficult to tell if a fridge has a virus.

“Within the next five years, using mobile devices simply for communicationwill seem outdated,” said Dr Curran.

The University of Ulster reader in computer science said the ‘internet of things’ will allow consumers to interact with nearly all of their appliances and devices.

“Your refrigerator will let you know when you’re running low on milk. Your dishwasher will inform you when it’s ready to be emptied,” he said.

“It’s possible that you will be getting more text messages from your devices than from human beings.”

He said some examples had already reached the marketplace: Controlling lights and temperature, closing the garage door, and receiving alerts from a smoke detector. “However, like any new technology or idea, there are kinks that need to be worked out,” said Dr Curran.

“If the internet of things is campaigning to run nearly every aspect of people’s digital lives, we need to consider factors that will ensure a seamless and safe introduction. Three in particular — security, standards, and overburdened networks — require critical focus before mass internet of things adoption.”

He noted the ease of paying bills online, but said shopping carried the risk of having personal information compromised. “Security needs to be a main priority for connected devices, especially since it will be difficult to tell if a toaster or refrigerator, which has no visual interface, has contracted a virus,” he said.

A recent report said that, by 2020, nearly 26bn internet-connected devices will be on the market, Dr Curran said.

“With the dramatic increase in devices over the next six years, network infrastructure needs technological advancements to ensure a fluid user experience,” said Dr Curran.


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