3. The Internet Can Kill You

This month I want to talk about the Internet of Things, IOT, and how you can use it in your writing. IOT can be defined as physical things that are connected to the Internet and which you or, as we will see later in this post, others can access and manipulate. For example, many of us have apps on our phones and tablets we use to access devices in our homes and offices.  I don’t know how many times I’ve driven away from my house and then wondered if I remembered to close the garage door. Now I have an app which allows me to view my garage door from my phone. If it’s open, I can close it. Using other apps on my phone I can also ensure that my home security system, locks, outdoor lights, and household or business robots are operating properly. You can control cameras inside or outside your home to ensure your family members’ safety.

I assume you’ve heard about smart cars. They’re available now for limited use and will be more widely available in the not too distant future. These vehicles depend on IOT to operate. The vehicles’ systems, such as the motor, steering, accelerator, and brakes communicate with each other and with things outside such as GPS satellites, traffic signals, road signs, traffic lights and people, to guide the car and keep its passengers and cargo safe. IOT can monitor road conditions and can alert you to an accident or construction ahead and recommend an alternate route.

Now, let’s talk about how the criminals and detectives in our books and short stories can use IOT. Let’s start with the criminals. Any Internet application can be hacked.  As writers, we can make creative use of IOT for our murders. Try this, you have a robot at home that contains a camera and can grasp objects. You also have a pistol in a bureau drawer. Your killer hacks into the robot and has the robot grab the gun. The camera allows the robot to aim and kill your victim. It then returns the gun to the drawer.

Or how about this? Your victim lives alone. Your killer hacks into the home’s IOT to unlock the door and lets himself in. He kills the victim when he is asleep, at around midnight. The hacker knows that a maid will arrive at 8:00 AM and discover the body. Have the murderer turn the thermostat down to fifty degrees on a cold winter night. Using IOT, he remotely resets the temperature to seventy-five degrees at 7:00 AM.  The maid arrives and calls the police. The medical examiner assumes the temperature in the house was seventy-five degrees all night and estimates the time of death earlier than midnight, based on the body temperature, when your killer has an alibi.

Here’s another way for mystery writers to use IOT. Your victim is traveling in a self-driving car. The killer hacks into the car’s steering mechanism, causing it to dive into an ice-cold river. Your killer cracks the window open a few inches and then locks the doors and windows. Water streams into the car. The driver can’t escape.

What about your detective? How can he use IOT? Let’s continue with the murders described above. With the robot murder, he discovers that the home’s IOT devices have been hacked. Playing a hunch, he checks the robot’s “hand” for gun residue. With the thermostat murder, he determines that the thermostat has been hacked. Using surveillance video from the area, he sees a car leaving the crime scene at the time of the murder. Using image enhancement, he clearly reads the license plate and sees the driver. Facial recognition software identifies the driver, who is a technology expert and has hacking expertise. With the self-driving car murder, your detective discovers the hack and finds out that the victim was about to become a whistleblower, revealing that the company’s CEO has embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars of government grants.

As you can see, IOT can be a useful tool for mystery writers. We’d love to hear from our readers about how you use IOT in your stories.

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