How data-over-sound is securing the future of the IoT

We live in a world where everything is connected and, in turn, depends on being connected. Our businesses, our homes and our cities are intricately linked by the growth of IoT. And, increasingly, our children’s educational and play lives are also becoming more digitally-immersive. But, at what security risk?

Stories about the threat and the potential fallout of cyber attacks on IoT and connected devices are increasingly hitting the headlines in the mainstream press.

This is particularly the case when it comes to connected toys and devices marketed at children, with one recent prominent scare story being that of a watchdog discovering smartwatches designed for children contain security flaws, allowing hackers to monitor its wearer’s whereabouts and even make them appear in a completely different location.

Elsewhere, there have been security concerns flagged by consumer groups such as Which? in the UK and Stiftung Warentest in Germany following researchers finding a number of security flaws in ‘intelligent’ toys such as the popular CloudPets and Hasbro’s Furby Connect.

And these fears over security flaws with kids’ connected toys and devices feed into a wider concern about the cyber-safety of IoT devices more generally.

Connected toys and growing fears over IoT security

These latest findings only confirm growing fears over the security and privacy of IoT, particularly in our homes, with the threat that microphones and cameras on our personal devices, even our children’s toys, can be accessed by hackers.

Which is why data-over-sound technologies such as those we are developing at Chirp are providing a fundamentally important solution to these security fears.

For example, we have worked closely with toymaker Hijinx to create an interactive toy based on the Netflix show Beat Bugs, using our proprietary data-over-sound technology to enable the toys to dance and sing along with the programme when they hear the theme song playing on the television.

This is a way of creating a connected toy that offers a fun, connected experience that is completely offline from the internet.

And it is the beginning of a revolution in security technologies for connected toys and for connected devices more generally, as removing the need for the device to be connected to the internet results in connected toys that are completely safe, secure and hacker-proof.

Data-over-sound protecting IoT devices

The rapid growth of the IoT means that this year there are already more connected devices than human beings on the planet, with Gartner estimating 26 billion IoT units are to be installed by 2020 and Cisco and Intel predicting 50 billion in the same timeframe.

Security is going to become increasingly important in a world in which everything and everyone is always connected, with data-over-sound offering the most viable alternative connectivity solution to the market, connecting man and machine via sound, rather than relying on traditional (and hackable) network infrastructure.

And this is exactly why Chirp’s ground-breaking work with toymakers such as Hijinx is really only scratching the surface when it comes to the possibilities of using data-over-sound to safely connect new devices to our home networks.

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As we enter the IoT age, data-over-sound technology will be able to provide safe and secure connections between smart devices and those devices without traditional networking capabilities, such as toys or home audio systems.

In the case of Hijinx, for example, we simply embedded the toys with Chirp’s data-over-sound technology that operates on a low cost, low power Arm Cortex M4 chip. Building upon this example, in the future we might find a number of different use cases where it might not be possible nor desirable to use existing networking technologies due to security concerns, excessive costs, or because of complex and off-putting set-up processes for the consumer to connect the device to their network.

connecting such devices using the unique affordances that data-over-sound offers is going to bring scalable solutions to the table that previously weren’t available

In these scenarios, connecting such devices using the unique affordances that data-over-sound offers is going to bring scalable solutions to the table that previously weren’t available. Offering consumers and businesses alike a fast, safe, secure and easy-to-use way of onboarding new devices to their home or work networks.

So data-over-sound is not only going to play a fundamental role in ensuring safe and secure IoT connectivity, but the possibilities for data-over-sound as a natural technological evolution that will increasingly help us to connect new devices, whilst minimising the threats posed by exposure to the wider internet, is almost endless.

Adam Howard is chief solutions architect at Chirp, the global leader in data-over-sound technology.

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