Australians are networking their homes at twice the rate of Americans and are eager adopters of the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Vish Nandlall, Telstra CTO.
Speaking at Melbourne's American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, Nandlall said US homes had an average of four devices connected to the internet in 2014, a rate well below its tech-hungry Australian counterparts.
"When you look what's happening within Telstra and our domestic network, you're seeing a lot more connected devices than you see in the US," Nandlall said. "We're seeing on average eight connected devices."
The devices Australians do have are not terribly sexy, mainly comprising PCs, smartphones, and set-top boxes, however Nandlall believes the connection rate is an indicator of things to come.
"There's now an adoption from a behaviour perspective, that consumers will have more connected devices in their household that they might have had not even two or four years ago," he said.
According to Nandlall, the IoT is still in its early days, with the CTO of Australia's largest telco saying it will be some time before consumers are ordering food from the supermarket via their fridge or shopping for ties via their washing machine.
Security would be challenging and, currently, it is "horrible", he said, noting he had been able to hack into his father's internet-connected television in Florida and turn it on and off while his parents were watching it.
"Security in IoT is harder, actually quite a lot harder, than security in the real world that you and I live in today," he said.
Nandlall said it is going to be hard to create a network enabling everything to talk to everything else and to process the massive amount of data involved.
It was announced earlier this week that Sydney-based startup Thinxtra had begun rolling out French IoT company Sigfox's low-powered, wide area network (LPWAN) technology in Australia and New Zealand.
By end of 2017, Thinxtra is planning to have coverage of the technology -- which it said provides an energy-saving alternative to existing cellular networks -- for 85 percent of the population in ANZ.
"Thinxtra wants to become the low power wide area network of choice in Australasia for Internet of Things, aiming for 60 percent market share with 17 million objects connected by end of 2022," the company says on its website. "Thinxtra wants to make it simple and economical for objects to connect, thanks to the Sigfox network technology."
By the end of 2016 some 6.4 billion "things" -- devices from toasters and kettles to cars and hospital equipment -- will be connected to the internet, according to analyst Gartner.
That figure represents a 30 percent rise from 2015 and Gartner expects this figure will grow further to reach 20.8 billion by 2020. By 2016, as many as 5.5 million new things will become connected every day and as a result, the growing IoT will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015, the analyst predicts.
According to Bitdefender, these 6.4 billion internet-connected devices promise to take homes to an unprecedented level of comfort, however, the internet security firm believes this new digital convenience takes its toll on private lives.
"As we have seen in the early stages of IoT development, gadgets designed for our home can talk with each other, yet they risk being overheard when communicating sensitive data," the company said. "The IoT can reach its full potential only if interactions between users, devices, applications and the cloud are authentic and secure."
In its latest report [PDF], The Internet of Things: Risks in the Connected Home - Research Paper, Bitdefender says the disruptive nature of the IoT raises its own security challenges, which it said includes constraint in memory and computer resources and that IoT devices cannot always support complex and evolving security algorithms.
Additionally, Bitdefender considers another setback to be that IoT devices do not include long-term support or automatic firmware updates, despite being created with longevity in mind.
When it comes to personal privacy, Bitdefender's report says that the IoT has the potential to infringe on basic human rights and internet principles by collecting data with an unprecedented level of detail.
"We can learn more about someone than ever, based on the person's intentional disclosure of eating habits, location, lifestyle, etc. as well as via metadata," the report says. "And although fragmented data sources seem harmless, by aggregating them, cyber-criminals can create an invasive digital portrait of a person."
The company said that the IoT expands the reach of surveillance and tracking, leaving users with few or no options to customise privacy settings or control what happens to their data.
In its own report [PDF], State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016 - Accelerating innovation, productivity, and value, Verizon says that the IoT is much more than the result of seemingly fragmented and complex technologies smashed together.
The US giant considers 2015 the year that the IoT gained legitimacy, saying businesses moved from a "start small, think big" mindset and shifted towards building IoT into future strategies.
"Over the next 18 months, IoT adoption will grow significantly, thanks largely to falling costs, the continuing convergence of data and services and ever-increasing IoT technology simplification -- a factor of utmost importance to consumers in particular," the report says.
"Homeowners can look forward to a simplified user interface to address a range of everyday issues, from controlling and monitoring home security and environmental conditions to monitoring their teenagers' driving habits."
According to Verizon, average consumers -- not just "gadget geeks" -- will become increasingly willing to try new ideas and services as they become easier to use and more efficient.
"As people begin to experience tangible benefits, IoT adoption will expand quickly, just as cell phone usage did," the report says. "IoT usage at home will be less fragmented as well."
"Companies and services developing products and services will collaborate, enabling users to engage with a variety of IoT applications through a single interface, likely voice, virtual reality and augmented reality, which we see among the major points of interaction in 2016 and beyond."