A phone with a bunch of icons around it. The phone screen reads, "Internet of things."

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is how we refer to the increasing amount of interconnected devices that we use in our daily lives. Everything from cars to smart watches to kitchen appliances can all be considered the Internet of Things.

These devices make our lives easier, such as allowing us to change the thermostat from our phone. But they also provide access to larger networks (and computers with sensitive information) to criminals who know how to make use of them. That’s because these items, which themselves rarely hold sensitive data, are poorly secured.

That’s why a pair of researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands is investigating how to improve IoT security without disrupting the functionality of these devices. Researchers are especially interested in medical applications, as the Internet of Things could allow doctors to, for example, monitor a patient’s blood pressure or other vitals remotely, meaning that the patient needn’t come in.

While increasing security on such devices is paramount, existing models, like passwords and firewalls, could be more of a hurdle. Getting medical information from a smart watch could help save a life, but not if the medical staff doesn’t have the password, or the watches’ firewall won’t interact with their computers.

To this end, the researchers are focusing part of their efforts on developing a system that would allow patients with Alzheimer’s to take their blood pressure measurements at home, in order to see if the illness is progressing. Patients could then have those readings reported back to their doctors.

Dr. Marielle Stoelinga and Dr. Stefano Schivo have received a grant from the European project SUCCESS to conduct their research. They will be working with hospitals in both France and the United Kingdom as they investigate new ways to improve security on the Internet of Things.