Liability and the Internet of Things

Who is responsible when automation goes wrong?

Today a lot of the products you depend upon are being put online. From vacuum cleaners and fitness trackers to home thermostats and home security cameras, chances are you probably own at least one of the many connected devices for sale.

But besides small commercial items, more expensive and industrial products are also being added to the Internet of Things. The growing amount of software and connectivity in cars is expanding quickly and full automation looks to be close on the horizon.

Connectivity in all sorts of items can have great benefits. For example, in connected cars benefits can include increased road safety, traffic management and sustainability in operation.

But could your connected devices carry more harm than you think? University of Cambridge professor Ross Anderson explained recently the safety implications of our connected devices in a study Standardisation and Certification of the ‘Internet of Things’.

He found that as the products we rely on for our lives become more technically complex, and more connected, that the current discussion issues around security of these devices will evolve from being mostly a privacy concern into a concern for public safety.

“What we are doing is putting online an awful lot of devices on which people depend for their lives and which can kill people if they go wrong,” says Anderson.

The dangers of software defects, and the vulnerability to cyber attacks can cause concern with those whose lives depend on those products working properly and securely, as issues can cause serious harm, and even death.

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