'To Whom It May Concern,' is trying to make people aware of open and unsecured networks and the dangers than come with them.
The year 2014 is said to be THE year of the "Internet of Things". The term was first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, describing a technological phenomenon in which physical objects are connected with each other through internet like structures.
Objects communicating with each other, exchanging information and profiting from the data collected by the other "thing". Think of a fully optimised and automated thermostat, knowing when you come home because it is connected to the schedule in your phone, knowing when you wake up because it gets that information from your alarm clock and even knowing whether or not the sun will shine because it can look up the weather forecast on the internet. Companies already sell these products and guarantee at least 20% less heating and cooling bills. Doesn't that sound great?
One may think the Internet of Things is something like machines living in symbiosis?
Humans can delegate decisions to machines and software that are able to include much more relevant information than humans and thus making better choices. Imagine communicating cars which will always keep the right distance to each other, always keep the correct speed limit. Bruno Latour, one of the leading Techno-Sociologists goes pretty far with his thoughts and postulates:
"No human is as relentlessly moral as a machine."
The Internet of Things combines the virtual world with the real world. Software controls a physical object. Sensors gather information, analyse the data and send the calculated consequence to the other machine. Between the two things lies a sophisticated software trying to find the best match in 'cause & effect'. What might sound like a great deal, as long as there is no 'man in the middle'. As soon as a machine acts according to information being sent to it, it can get dangerous if these information get manipulated. Hacking is the word you are looking for: rescripting the software, changing numbers, influencing algorithms, and suddenly your automated car gets quicker even though a red light is ahead.
The virtual controls the physical!
The Internet of Things will spread many millions of little machines into our daily lives who are begging for data to act upon. A "thing" cannot know whether or not it is acting right or wrong, it gets data and acts according to it, exactly how it was programmed to.
We need to be aware of this situation, and demand for security. Because in a secured exchange of information between machines lies the key to a non-dangerous Internet of Things. Information technologists, electrical engineers, designers have to assure sociality of a product in the process of creating it, and we as society are not allowed to accept unfinished, insecure products. Companies have a huge responsibility towards us, they need to make certain that their product can't be turned against us.
'To Whom It May Concern' is a creative initiative trying to make aware of the potential danger lying in the Internet of Things
But here is no room for denial or technological pessimism, connected things can have a huge positive impact on energy saving, air pollution and a lot of optimisations in fields of medicine, agriculture and countless other areas. It can be a great technological leap if everyone involved, also the user, stays cautious.