Tag Archives: innovation

Is the “Internet of Things” making us more vulnerable to hacking?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a general concept that refers to objects that have identifiable or machine-readable information, which can be managed by computers. The long-term goal is for every device and person to be equipped with identifiers that are all linked together.

The idea seems fascinating and innovative, but it raises a lot of issues, particularly issues related to security. For instance, last month we learned that the largest hacking scheme of Target’s financial system was done through a HVAC system. As things we use for everyday living begin to have online capabilities, our lives and the Internet of Things become increasingly interconnected. As we see now with the increased commercial use of things like NEST technology’s thermostat, we can control every system in our home without even leaving our seats. That sort of convenience helps its users but leaves the door wide open for those who have ill intentions.  IoT gives others the ability to hack in and control certain aspects of our lives, by unlocking our door, turning our lights on, or disabling security systems. They even have the ability to hack into our appliances. The biggest concern of all this is that your personal data can be compiled from IoT devices. IoT’s data includes information about its user’s location, how many people are in the home, when one arrives or leaves their home.

The IoT is an economically expanding system. With over 20 billion devices set to be “internized” by 2020, it creates a breeding ground for data collectors. Even software that allows users to counter security threats is still susceptible to hacking.

All we can hope for is that with the increase of “IoT”, there is an increase in security detail.  But even then nothing is guaranteed.  What do you think about “IoT”, and the concerns it raises? Would you want every device you own to be connected? How would we go about making sure our privacy, data, etc. are protected?

Race with the machines

This post is ties really closely with the Software is eating the world post. In this TED talk, Erik Brynholfsson addresses the problem how as machines take on more jobs more and more people find themselves out of work. “Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynholfsson — it’s simply the growing pains of a radically reorganized economy.” The description of the talk also suggests to watch the opposing viewpoint from Robert Gordon. (I watched his video too, but it doesn’t relate as much to our class).

Anyway, Erik argues that indeed at this moment people are losing their jobs, but this is just a growing pain for what he calls “The New Machine Age”. According to Erik at this moment in time productivity is at an all time high, and actually the numbers used to make this hypothesis are understated. He says that because a lot of the Internet is “free” economists miss about 300 billion dollars for the total GDP. Interestingly enough he will go on to incorporate a lot of the ideas that we have discussed throughout this course. He says that this new machine age will promote grow for three reasons. It’s digital, meaning it’s at virtually no cost. It’s exponential, like what Ray Kurzwiel says, and it’s combinatorial, meaning that new things will be building blocks for future implementation. His final point provides the most hope for our job situation. He states as an example that when Deep Blue played grandmaster Garry Kasparov, the machine won. And even today, a cell-phone app can beat even the most skilled grandmaster, but what is most hopeful is that today, the world champion is not a human or a machine. Today when humans work with machines, they can beat any human or any machine. This means that we need to race with the machines rather than race against the machines.

He also talks about Watson during the talk which can relate to the singularity.

And finally here is another TED talk that is unrelated to the first one, but I’ve been meaning to post it for some time. It describes the purpose of this class, and what we as developers should be doing, when making new software.

Kickstarter-funded projects at CES

The Verge has a long write-up about the Kickstarter-funded projects exhibited at CES. The new prevalence of Kickstarter-funded tech ventures might show us a model of how the path of technological progress — especially for consumer products — might become more democratic.

If you don’t know about Kickstarter, here is the basic idea: Someone has a project in mind but not enough money to do it. For example, maybe the project would cost $50,000. The person starts a Kickstarter project and asks for support. People pledge monetary support, but they only have to pay if enough other people pledge so that the project reaches its threshold, in this case $50,000. A benefit of this system is that it is safer for donors. They are less likely to end up spedning money on a project that never even gets rolling.

In the article, some of the projects in question were high tech “smart” watches, mobile phone accessories, Bluetooth-enabled stickers (for locating easily lost items), and an electric skateboard.

It seems that these new Kickstarter-funded projects will result in a wider array of available products. This means there will be more possible paths along which technology can evolve. Furthermore, the paths will be more often chosen according to the actual needs of consumers, instead of just whatever the large tech companies think they can sell. A consequence of this will likely be happier consumers. This makes Kickstarter a positive development from a utilitarian perspective.

Also, Kickstarter gives innovative people an opportunity to make money by working creatively on their own projects. That means they are less dependent for their personal income on large companies, organizations, or governments that decide what projects developers and engineers are to work on. This seems positive from the perspective of Kantian ethics. Kickstarter allows gives people autonomy and allows them to have work where they are not treated as mere means to someone else’s ends.