Resolved: That 2015 Is When Privacy & Security Become #IoT Priority!

I’m a right-brained, intuitive type (ENFP, if you’re keeping Myers-Briggs score…), and sometimes that pays off on issues involving technology & the general public, especially when the decidedly non-technical, primal issue of FEAR comes into the equation.

I used to do a lot of crisis management work with Fortune 100 companies, and usually worked with engineers, 95% of whom are my direct opposite: ISTJ.  Because they are so left-brained, rational and analytical, it used to drive them crazy that the public would be so fearful of various situations, because peoples’ reaction was just so darned irrational!

I’m convinced that same split is a looming, and extremely dangerous problem for the Internet of Things: the brilliant engineers who bring us all these great platforms, devices and apps just can’t believe that people could be fraidy cats.

Let me be blunt about it, IOT colleagues: get used dealing with peoples’ fears. Wise up, because that fear might just screw the IoT before it really gains traction. Just because a reaction is irrational doesn’t mean it isn’t very, very real to those who feel it, and they might just shun your technology and/or demand draconian regulations to enforce privacy and security standards. 

That’s why I was so upset at a remark by some bright young things at the recent Wearables + Things conference. When asked about privacy and security precautions (a VERY big thing with people, since it’s their very personal bodily data that’s at risk) for their gee-whiz device, they blithely said that they were just a start-up, and they’d get to security issues after they had the device technology squared away.

WRONG, KIDS: security and privacy protections have to be a key priority from the get-go.

That’s why I was pleased to see that CES asked FTC Chair Edith Ramirez to give opening remarks at a panel on security last week, and she specifically focused on “privacy by design,” where privacy protections are baked into the product from the get-go. She emphasized that start-ups can’t get off the hook:

“‘Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked,’ said Ms. Ramirez, who added that the large number of Internet-connected devices would ‘increase the number of access points’ for hackers.

Ms. Ramirez seemed to be directing her remarks at the start-ups that are making most of the products — like fitness trackers and glucose monitors — driving the so-called Internet of Things.

She said that some of these developers, in contrast to traditional hardware and software makers, ‘have not spent decades thinking about how to secure their products and services from hackers.'”

I yield to no one in my love of serendipitous discoveries of data’s value (such as the breakthrough in early diagnosis of infections in neonates by researchers from IBM and Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, but I think Ms. Ramirez was on target about IoT developers forcing themselves to emphasize minimization of data collection, especially when it comes to personal data:

“Beyond security, Ms. Ramirez said that technology companies needed to pay more attention to so-called data minimization, in which they collect only the personal data they need for a specific purpose and delete it permanently afterward. She directly challenged the widespread contention in the technology industry that it is necessary to collect large volumes of data because new uses might be uncovered.

‘I question the notion that we must put sensitive consumer data at risk on the off chance a company might someday discover a valuable use for the information,’ she said.

She also said that technology companies should be more transparent about the way they use personal data and should simplify their terms of use.”

Watch for a major IoT privacy pronouncement soon from the FTC.

It’s gratifying that, in addition to the panel Ms. Ramirez introduced, that CES also had an (albeit small…) area for privacy vendors.  As the WaPo reported, part of the reasons for this area is that the devices and apps are aimed at you and me, because “consumers are finding — thanks to the rise in identity theft, hacks and massive data breaches — that companies aren’t always good stewards for their information.” Dealing with privacy breaches is everyone’s business: companies, government, and you and me!

As WaPo reporter   concluded: “The whole point of the privacy area, and of many of the products being shown there, is that technology and privacy don’t have to fight. They can actually help each other. And these exhibitors — the few, the proud, the private — are happy to be here, preaching that message.”

So, let’s all resolve that 2015 when privacy and security become as big an IoT priority as innovation!


Oh, before I forget, its time for my gratuitous reference whenever I discuss IoT privacy and security, to Gen. David Petraeus (yes, the very General “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Petraeus who faces possible federal felony charges for leaking classified documents to his lover/biographer.), who was quite enamored of the IoT when he directed the CIA. That should give you pause, no matter whether you’re an IoT user, producer, or regulator!

Smart Washing Machine: another example of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”

When I buy the much-hyped smart refrigerator, you’ll know I’ve officially gone around the bend, and have officially surrendered to IoT hype: it makes sense for those who buy a ton of processed foods with bar codes on them, but I just can’t see the value to those of us who buy a lot of label-less veggies from farmers markets, for example.

In a close second place on my personal list of those IoT devices that violate one of my Essential Truths of the IoT: “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should” would be a smart washing machine.

As the Washington Post wrote about Whirlpool’s $1,699 “smart” washer,

“Few expected ‘smart’ machines would fly off the shelves. They’re expensive, and Americans don’t typically replace their washers and dryers all that often. But analysts say the problem is bigger than that. Today’s smartest washer and dryer set won’t fold your clothes, erase wrinkles or stop you from mixing reds and whites. It won’t even move a load from one machine to the other. So what’s the point?”

I know there are going to be some false starts in creating IoT-enabled products that really do provide value, and good for Whirlpool for experimenting, but I do wonder whether something we used to call “common sense” is sorely lacking in some companies’ IoT decision-making.

IMHO, it would really be helpful if my washer and dryer could go on late at night to take advantage of utilities’ off-peak pricing as part of their smart grid initiatives (to their credit, as you’ll see from the photo of the companion smart dryer, a smart grid link is part of these appliances)

smart grid button on Whirlpool dryer

. However, I suspect that would be easily possible if the utilities just published APIs so some smart IFTTT user could create a “recipe” that would turn on an utterly-conventional washer that was plugged into a WeMo smart plug (hmm: did a search for that, and found a recipe that would automatically turn off a washer plugged into a WeMo if a Nest alarm detected a fire: nice, but rather low on my list of what I’d want to have done in case of a fire….).

So, yea, smart appliances, but let’s also make sure that one of the questions companies ask before committing to a really expensive initiative is: “do we really need it?”

Detailing my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision

The best-laid plans get canceled due to Summer vacation…

I was supposed to speak to seniors (and those who love or care for them!) today in my dear little burg, Medfield, MA, about my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision. However, the talk has been postponed til September due to the small number of sign-ups. Oh well, I guess most revolutions start with a whimper, not a bang.

Because I believe so strongly in the idea, I’ve posted the talk (including presenter’s notes) to SlideShare.

Basically, it fleshes out what I’ve written in a number of recent posts, that I believe we can and must meld two aspects of the IoT, Quantified Self wearable devices that measure and record personal health and wellness data 24/7 and smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat and Ivee voice-activated base station, to create a new approach to aging. I defined smart aging as:

using senior-friendly home and health technology to cut your health and living costs,
improve your health and quality of life, and keep you in your own home as long as possible.

I predicted that it can “bring unprecedented health and happiness to our senior years — while saving us  money!”

While there have been efforts for a while to specifically use technology to improve aging, I predicted that

“Smart Aging will instead result from tweaking efforts underway as part of the Internet of Things to improve life for everyone, of all ages. As Joe Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, says, ‘Counterintuitively, making home automation mainstream and cool means that it’s likely to end up in the hands of older adults sooner than if home automation technologies were only designed specifically for older people.’”

(that’s why I suspect that wearables such as the Nike Fuel or prototype MC10 for jocks will be more important for seniors than anything specifically designed for them — and will face fewer obstacles to adoption).

I stressed that there are still important obstacles, not only the security and privacy ones that are essential for ANY IoT product or service, but also some that are specific to seniors, such as preserving their dignity and letting them control who will share access to their data.

I concluded that this approach will pay multiple benefits:

  • Improve your health & fitness
  • Cut your medical bills
  • Build your self-esteem
  • Cut your living costs
  • Let you stay at home, safely.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Ivee: helping seniors “age in place” through Internet of Things

Posted on 28th May 2014 in aging, home automation, Internet of Things, seniors, SmartAging

I’m still not certain I buy the oft-expressed view that seniors are inherently anti-tech (I’ve seen too many of them at various Apple Stores buying iPads so they can do FaceTime with the grandchildren…), but it’s true that, as you get older, you’re less likely to want to squint at tiny displays, or tap tiny virtual keys, etc. And, truth to tell, if you can simply give a voice command to do something you’d otherwise have to do manually, who wouldn’t choose the easy way out (hey, I know I’m late to the game, but I’m just starting to use Siri to dictate texts).

iveecover iveeThat’s why I think the voice-activated assistant ivee can be a wonderful tool to help seniors age in place, by serving as the easy-to-use access point for a growing array of smart home devices, including hubs, thermostats, and, soon, locks and lights (including the Phillips Hue — why shouldn’t seniors be able to pick from 6 million different combinations of light colors???) from a variety of vendors that can control various home functions — and, BTW, some of those devices can also let nervous adult children know you’re OK.

ivee will work with both open and proprietary communications standards.

ivee meets one of my acid tests for IoT devices for seniors, in that “she” doesn’t give off any kind of sterile home nursing vibe that would stigmatize users — when she isn’t following your every wish and command she serves as an attractive clock. But speak to her from 10-15′ away, and she’ll:

  • adjust the temperature
  • turn on the lights
  • tell you stock prices
  • tune your radio
  • tell you the weather.

Interestingly, Interactive Voice, ivee’s parent company, doesn’t mention the senior market anywhere on its site, but I think it could be the killer device for seniors who want to stay in their home.

Whether or not your Mom and Dad are tech averse, why not get an ivee to control your own smart home devices, and then let them ask you how the heck that thing works — it won’t be long until they’ll ask for one of their own, and you’ll have launched them on the road toward safely and easily controlling their home — and aging safely in place.

 

IoT Breakthrough: Ambient Backscatter Allows Battery-less Wireless!

Posted on 20th August 2013 in energy, home automation, Internet of Things, M2M

(BTW: thanx to @TheloT, always a great source of IoT info, for Tweeting this!)

I was impressed when a Harvard research team created a 3-d printed battery the size of a grain of sand, but this is a REAL gamechanger!

CIO reports that  a team of University of Washington researchers have created a new technique, ambient backscatter, which:

“…leverag[es] existing TV and cellular transmissions, rather than generating their own radio waves. This novel technique enables ubiquitous communication where devices can communicate among themselves at unprecedented scales and in locations that were previously inaccessible.”

Thus, existing wireless signals are transformed into a source of power and a communication medium.

You can imagine the implications for the Internet of Things!

Among other applications, the researchers say ambient backscatter could be used for wearable devices, smart home systems, and sensor networks such as ones embedded in bridges to give advance warning of maintenance problems. It could also be used for NFC payments.

CIO reports that:

“Groups of the devices were tested in a variety of settings in the Seattle area, including inside an apartment building, on a street corner and on the top level of a car park. These locations ranged from less than half a mile away from a TV tower to about 6.5 miles away.

“They found that the devices were able to communicate with each other, even the ones farthest from a TV tower. The receiving devices picked up a signal from their transmitting counterparts at a rate of 1 kilobit per second when up to 2.5 feet apart outdoors and 1.5 feet apart indoors. This is enough to send information such as a sensor reading, text messages and contact information.

“The researchers were able to demonstrate how one payment card can transfer funds to another card by leveraging the existing wireless signals around them.”

The U of Washington team won the prize for the top paper at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication 2013 conference in Hong Kong.

What a breakthrough! It looks like Kris Pister’s “smart dust” vision will be a reality soon!

http://www.stephensonstrategies.com/">Stephenson blogs on Internet of Things Internet of Things strategy, breakthroughs and management