Author Archives: Daniel Price

Is Wearable Technology and The IoT The Future of Love and Sex?

Is Wearable Technology and The IoT The Future of Love and Sex?

Technology – The Future of Love and Sex?

Technology now touches almost every corner of our lives, but while most of those corners have been improved by advances in devices and computing power, a recent survey by Durex claimed that 33 percent of people felt that their intimate relationships were being negatively impacted by technology. Indeed, a stunning five percent of people said that they had actually used Facebook whilst making love.

love-technology-wearables

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Despite this modern day truism, there are plenty of tech entrepreneurs who believe the key to a better and more intimate relationship is held by wearable technology. Couples who endure long distance relationships, who work differing shifts, or who want a new stimulus in their interactions could all find salvation from the offerings by the fledgling industry.

One such company – the Florida-based FriXion – claims to be on the verge of revolutionizing sex lives around the world with their ‘sexual social network’. Their software allows you to interact physically via the internet in an augmented-reality experience of sex. The network connects toys by accessing their existing technology (machine feedback, pressure sensors, clench and ripple attachments, vibration motors, etc) to give a simulated version of intimate acts from a distance. The appeal of this for the developer is obvious; it has always been true that ‘sex sells’, and the firm are now trying to cash in on their success by organizing live mass cyber sessions with well-known adult entertainment stars. There is undoubtedly a willing market – indeed a recent survey by the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 25 percent of people born after 1977 we willing to wear technology while making love.

Away from the toys themselves, app makers are also getting in on the act with Google Glass. If you and your partner are both lucky enough to own one of the prestigious devices you can now use an app called Glance to experience your love making from their partner’s point of view. Clever or creepy? We’re not sure, but we can definitely think of better ways to spend the $3,000 needed for two Google Glass headsets!

There’s more physical hardware, too. A firm called Ravijour has made a bra that measures your pulse and emotions at all times, reporting its findings back to an app. And when the device thinks you’re excited enough? It’ll automatically ‘undo’ the garment. We just hope doesn’t malfunction whilst you’re on a train or giving an important presentation…

Of course, these toys, apps, and hardwares fail to recognise that the 33 percent of people in the aforementioned Durex survey probably think technology is ruining their intimate relationships because it is removing attention from the physical and directing it onto the digital. There is certainly an argument that app-based play with wearable tech will push people further apart and thus increase our likelihood to substitute technology for intimacy. Will Ranscombe, Managing Director of Je Joue (an app-based stimulation toy) disagrees, “The app is just a facilitator for encouraging interaction between couples”, he says. “We designed it with couples in mind. We wanted to break away from the stereotype of sex toys for singletons”.

What do you think? Are developers chasing a well-worn market purely for profit, or do they really think their inventions can change the future of love and relationships? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

How The Internet Of Things Leads To Cleaner And Greener Public Spaces

How The Internet Of Things Leads To Cleaner And Greener Public Spaces

The Internet Of Things Leads And Greener Public Spaces

The internet of things revolution continues to march forward unabated. As cars, fridges, healthcare, and fitness industries all fall over themselves to take products to markets, one sector which has gone relatively unnoticed is that of waste and waste management. While the internet of things might not literally be able to take out your garbage for you (yet!), it can certainly help make the whole process considerably more efficient.

One such example of waste management that is being revolutionised by the internet of things is trash collection. Picking up rubbish and recyclable material from publicly-available bins on street corners, in parks, or on various campuses is very resource-intensive – workers have to drive collection vehicles to every collection point – regardless of whether or not they are full. A rubbish bin that could tell collection crews when to empty the different bins could save a lot of fuel and work hours for both companies and local governments.

Commercial waste company ‘Bigbelly’ is behind the trash can revolution. The company won the People’s Choice Award for top Smart City Application at the 2014/15 Internet of Things Awards, and the rubbish units have much more grandiose plans than simple managing trash.

At the ceremony they said they “Think of each waste and recycling unit as a self-contained power plant to which applications and appliances that measure foot traffic, air quality, radiation levels and more are easily attached. Its connectivity can be expanded to offer free Wi-Fi to residents. Think urban development, public safety, and broad communication for the public. Some of these ‘ideas’ are already in the works with pilot programs underway…”.

Their idea works by combining the IoT technology with solar power to create “smart” trash and recycling receptacles. Adding sensors and compactors to commercial trash cans allows them to send real-time data about their “fullness” to web or smartphone apps, so waste haulers can make those collections at the time they’re needed. It means service routes can be created on-the-go to maximise efficient use of workers and collection trucks resources.

Solar Powered Future

tech-green

It comes as no surprise to learn that thousands of these units have now been deployed globally. Solar-powered trash compactors made by Bigbelly are a familiar sight on the streets of cities such as Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Dublin, Hamburg, New York and Stockholm. Indeed, the company said it ended 2014 with more than 1,500 customers on its account list — in 47 countries. That’s roughly 30,000 bins worldwide. Each unit has a capacity of up to 150 gallons, more than four times the capacity of a traditional 35-gallon on-street rubbish bin – meaning collections are needed less often in the first place, before any fancy tech becomes involved.

It’s undoubtedly a tidy and rapidly growing solution to the problematic waste of labour, energy, and material in traditional rubbish collection. But what do you think? Do you think smart bins are a step too far, or are they one of the more logical uses of the IoT? Let us know in the comments below.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Daniel Price

The Internet Of Things – Beyond The Long Arm Of The Law?

The Internet Of Things – Beyond The Long Arm Of The Law?

Beyond The Long Arm Of The Law?

The internet of things is a fast-moving, dynamic, and flexible technology. The law is a slow, unwieldy, and laboriously complex set of rules. The two do not mix well.

The law has consistently failed to keep up with technology. Issues like cyberbullying, data protection, and even internet regulation had all reached a pandemic level before the governments and courts of the world caught up. Now the challenge is how to make the internet of things become a safe, law-abiding area of commerce.

As increasing numbers of everyday objects come online in the internet of things, regulators and lawmakers have been slow to recognise the potential legal implications for many issues that are arising – chiefly privacy and data protection. Currently, the IoT is regulated and managed by existing legal frameworks; none of the worlds developed countries have passed any new legislation specifically regarding the sector.

Internetofthings

Due to the fact many internet of things devices are located in personal spaces (such as the home, the car, or even the body itself), in most European countries they fall under the jurisdiction of laws covering personal data. In the UK that means the IoT comes under the Data Protection Act 1998 and Europe-wide it falls under the EU data protection directive. Breaching these laws can lead to enforcement action and fines by national regulators such as the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office – but not necessarily criminal charges.

It’s a similar story in the United States. The US Federal Trade Commission took its first action relating to the internet of things in 2013 and later settled a complaint with a company that marketed video cameras that were designed to allow consumers to monitor their homes remotely. The regulatory body successfully argued that the companies lacklustre data protection and wilful disregard for privacy had led to the exposure of the private lives of thousands consumers online – but again, no criminal charges were forthcoming.

A simple example shows the difficulty in forming effective laws: Consider a ‘smart’ shipping container that can tell it’s owner where is it, the conditions inside the container, and other useful metrics; should that be regulated in the same way as a health band that transmits sensitive data about a user’s physical condition? What about smart fridge? – it might seem harmless, but it could provide sensitive information about a person’s religion or health to supermarkets etc, depending on its contents.

A ‘data protection working party’ which advises the EU Commission, found in research last year that in most cases consumers are unaware that data processing is being carried out by the companies that have supplied specific objects – and that needs to change.

Ruth
Ruth Boardman

The challenge is, how do you get that information on transparency and consent across to people in a meaningful way?” said Ruth Boardman, Head of the International Privacy and Data Protection Group at an EU-wide law firm. “It may be easy to get someone to sign up to consent when you have to set up a device but what about a toothbrush which is connected to the internet?

Whatever the solution, you can be fairly certain that by the time lawmakers respond, the IoT will have already moved on!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Three Myths About The Internet Of Things And Security

Three Myths About The Internet Of Things And Security

Three Myths About The Internet Of Things And Security

Privacy and security is a hot topic at the moment. From heartbleed to the NSA and from government spying to Obama’s State of the Union address, it seems everyone is keen to have their say on what they think security and privacy in the online world should look like. It’s no wonder, therefore, that there are a lot of myths and untruths circulating. Here we look to debunk some of them…:

Myth 1: The private sector is capable of meeting security challenges by itself

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have drawn praise and derision in equal measure in recent weeks. Not long ago they stated they thought the government should have more ability to access private online communications to help combat terrorism – some regarded their views as sensible, while others took serious umbrage with the idea of the state having yet more intrusion into our privacy.

security-cloud

The truth is the private sector is unlikely to be capable of meeting the increasing challenges by itself. Whether or not you agree with the concept of state intervention, at the very least the private sector needs help in facilitating an information exchange that contributes to the public good. Ultimately individual companies are probably not motivated to care about the public good without guidance from public policy – though public policy will only be effective with proper feedback of what’s working and what’s not from researchers, enterprises and users.

Myth 2: More security means less privacy

Technically, security and privacy appear to be two sides of the same coin; both rely on encryption, both use design processes to help ensure their protection, and both suffer similar types of failures.

However, there is a distinction. Privacy is about providing information into a system and not being personally harmed by doing so, security is about creating value and then protecting that value. The recent IEEE Summit on Internet Governance saw several speakers claim we were currently dealing with security versus privacy, when in fact we should be looking at security blended with privacy. By taking the view of one versus the other, we do not allow the technical community to accurately describe the choices society is facing. Collectively we have to find practical levels of security and privacy that work in a cost effective way – not choose one over the other.

Myth 3: Traditional software security will work for the internet of things

One of the biggest challenges for the internet of things is getting the message to new adoptees that traditional, desktop security strategies will not work very well.

Methods that are now common practice among desktop users – such as rolling monthly updates, new software releases, and security patches – are not necessarily practical for the IoT, where some devices and technologies could be in place for many years before they are replaced or upgraded.

Scale is also an issue; where IT networks may traditionally comprise of hundreds, maybe thousands of devices, the number of IoT devices will dwarf it and continue to grow exponentially. Companies will be stepping into a world we they experienced before and that they haven’t engineered for – the dynamics are an unknown.

Your thoughts?

What myths do you regularly hear about the internet of things? What is you view on the future of security and privacy in the IoT? Let us know in the comments below.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Daniel Price

State of the Union: Obama Hopes To Make The Internet A Safer Place

State of the Union: Obama Hopes To Make The Internet A Safer Place

Obama Hopes To Make The Internet A Safer Place

Fresh off the back of a joint conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron last week, in which the two heads of state said they wanted their countries to have increased cybersecurity capabilities to help counter terrorism, Barrack Obama has used his annual State of the Union address to announce that he will use 2015 to pass new cybersecurity legislation that will make the internet a safer place. 

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism”, said Obama. 

state-of-union

(Image Source: USAToday)

The high-profile hacks of Sony, Target, and Home Depot in recent months have made new legislation a priority, though in the aftermath of the President’s announcement it was already being suggested his plans will struggle to gain traction. Anindya Ghose, Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences at New York University, said “I don’t think anyone wants to see another Sony. It’s bad for everyone, but I find it difficult to see any legislation going through despite the importance of it”. 

It appears that, once again, the extremely partisan nature of US politics could stand in the way of progress. The Sony hack (in which 50,000 employees’ details were stolen) was the perfect example of how cybersecurity and personal data protection were linked, said Ghose, but because of the hostility between the two parties and the fact the Republicans control both Congress and the Senate, new legislation would be difficult. 

This has infuriated groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who have repeatedly called on Obama to strengthen consumer protection; currently there are very few restrictions on the data that companies can collect from digital apps and how they are allowed to use that information. 

Addressing the partisan politics directly, the President said “I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable”. 

David Le Duc, Director of a lobby group for the software and digital content industry, disagrees with Obama, the ACLU and the EFF. He said: “We agree with the goal of securing people’s privacy but we are concerned that a broad, overreaching approach will affect the ability to maximise the economic and social use of data”. His concerns could be legitimate – Silicon Valley has long espoused the virtues of big data for everything from advertising to improving our health, and there is a genuine concern on the ground that new laws could hinder firms’ ability to use the vast wealth of data currently at their disposal. 

In his speech, Obama claimed that introducing new measures would let the US “continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe”. On this point Le Duc is more reconciliatory, saying “A lot of us enjoy tremendous benefits from apps that are customised and immediate based on our preferences and likes”, but he sounded a word of caution, adding “Going too far to limit that to protect our ‘privacy’ would not be an effective endeavour”. 

What do you think of Obama’s ideas? Are they going too far, or a necessary step to protect citizens lives? Are Silicon Valley companies right to be concerned? Would Obama really jeopardise the future of some of the US’s foremost tech enterprises by limiting their ability to compete? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Three Issues Facing the Internet of Things

Three Issues Facing the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things 

The potential of the internet of things is enormous. While we might still be some years away from the technology reaching its zenith, the effect it is already having on our everyday lives is huge; from assisting the disabled to monitoring our health, the internet of things is slowly starting to deliver on its promises as a life-changing development. 

Despite that, there are issues. The sooner the internet of things can negotiate and solve these issues, the sooner it can develop in a smooth and efficient manner… 

IoT-Cloud

1) How many devices can one person wear? 

Is it realistic to expect one person to wear ten different devices? Twenty? Fifty? The current trend in technology products is for new launches to be both simple and ready-to-use – the result is that most devices are designed to do one thing really well, and not much else. The knock on effect is that there is an over-specialisation occurring, for example, a wearable that only monitors your sleep, or only monitors how fast you eat, or only monitors a certain aspect of your health. 

While blogger Harrison Weber managed to try on 56 different gadgets at CES 2015, you could never charge, manage and wear them all at once. 

The problem is linked to that which Samsung’s chief executive BK Yoon recently touched on – there has to be more standardisation, more cross-competitor collaboration, and more user-friendly product development. Without it, the industry will crash. 

2) Sensing or inferring? 

Linked to the previous problem, there is an increasing trend towards making devices seemingly for the sake of it. While CES might be swimming with smart yoga mats, clever skis, and intelligent light sensors – are they really necessary. 

A perfect example is that of the light sensor. For example – is a wristband which tells you how much UV exposure you’re getting deserving of being a standalone gadget? Could a smartphone not measure light levels, decide whether you’re outside, and check the UV index? The wristband is sensing, the smartphone is inferring. 

An example of a company which has adapted is Jawbone. Early versions asked wearers to log their activity manually, but newer models notice a period of activity, guess at what that activity was by comparing it to known patterns, and confirm it by asking the user. Your response will either reinforce or update its models of what particular activities look like. 

3) Linking data to actions 

As we discussed recently, an endless stream of raw data is not useful nor appealing to consumers. The consumer-side future of wearables is not about the data itself, but instead about using that data to create intelligent, useful, and actionable feedback; ultimately, if data doesn’t change your behaviour, then why bother collecting it? 

Consider stress monitoring apps, while the principle of seeing how stressed you were at a certain point in the day is a nice idea, unless you can see the person to whom you were talking, or revisit the situation you were in, it’s hard to do anything about it. The solution in this regard could be an amalgamation of life-logging apps with stress monitoring wearables – and solutions such as these would also address some of the issues noted in the aforementioned first point.

What issues do you think are facing the IoT? What challenges must it overcome before it can fulfil its potential? Let us know in the comments below.

By Dan Price

Can Google Detect Cancer?

Can Google Detect Cancer?

Can Google Detect Cancer?

Google X – the tech giant’s semi-secret facility that is dedicated to making major technological advancements – is well-known for its ‘moonshots’; ideas which seem outlandish but which have often produced some of the most exciting, forward-thinking, and widely used technology that’s available today. Success stories include Google Translate, self-driving cars, Project Loon and Google Glass.

Its latest concept is a pill that aims to detect cancers and other diseases by sending magnetic nanoparticles into a person’s bloodstream. The idea came about after a conversation with Sam Gambhir, who said the firm were looking for ideas on which moonshots they should aim for next. Gambhir is a professor of radiology, bioengineering, and materials science at Stanford University and is also the director of the university’s Canary Centre for Cancer Early Detection – a unit at the forefront of a movement that seeks to identify cancers far sooner than we do today.

After extensive conversations, developing a “nanoparticle platform” seemed like a good fit – especially as Google grew its health operations and added researchers to its health sciences lab in Silicon Valley.

They hope the technology will work by making nanoparticles latch onto certain cancer-related molecules in the bloodstream and that a wearable device would use magnetic properties to recognise when this happens. While it’s not the first attempt to detect cancer within the body without drawing blood, Google will undoubtedly bring something new to the field. Google have built an unusually talented team that spans multiple disciplines, including physics, chemistry, and biology, and also provide a new kind of corporate leverage that’s unavailable to traditional academic centres and research labs – they aim to push new technologies into the market at speed.

cells

They have brought on a lot of very smart people that are thinking about these problems in very unique ways”, Gambhir said. “Academic institutions aren’t as good at making an actual product. Research has to leave the academic world and move into the industrial world, and most industrial world applications are focused on therapeutics rather than diagnostics – and certainly not diagnostics based on wearable sensors”.

Despite the positivity, it will probably be years before a Google cancer-detecting pill reaches the market. Currently Google has not tested its pills on humans, and instead focussing on sending prototypes into artificial human limbs. Muneesh Tewari, who heads a research lab working on early detection of cancer at the University of Michigan, says reaching the market will require not only additional research but some rather significant regulatory wrangling.

The concept is very exciting and has merit. The question is how feasible is this and over what time frame. It’s still quite early days”, he said.

Nonetheless, this is exactly what Google X was designed to do – push boundaries harder and faster than other companies want to or are able to. You get the distinct impression that if anyone is going to succeed it’ll be Larry Page and his team of moonshot specialists.

What do you think? Chasing dreams or viable medical theories? Let us know in the comments below.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Daniel Price

How Much Data Do You Need To Hide?

How Much Data Do You Need To Hide?

How Much Data Do You Need To Hide?

If you’ve not got anything to hide, you’ve not got anything to worry about”, or so the old saying goes… But how true is that phrase in the modern age? Do you have anything to hide, no matter how small? Are you happy for ISPs, governments and other organisations to have complete access to everything that you do, watch, and write online? Very few people can honestly say they have nothing to hide – even if you live in a bubble and have no virtual accounts, social media interests or online banking, most people wouldn’t want their browsing history to become common knowledge.

In a week when British Prime Minister David Cameron said that UK intelligence agencies needed more access to communication data such as records of phone calls and online exchanges between individuals, as well as the contents of those communications – claiming it “is compatible with a modern, liberal democracy” – the importance of online privacy is once again on the agenda.

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

meta-data

Sara Watson, from the Berkman Centre for the Internet and Society, believes that lots of people often believe that they don’t have anything to hide, but that’s primarily because they don’t know exactly what data is being collected about them and how it is being used. Speaking at a recent conference in Malmo, she argued that because the way computers read data isn’t legible for humans, we can’t be truly digitally literate until we can properly see and interpret that data.

There are ways to monitor and hide data, however. Tools such as Google’s Dashboard and Facebook’s targeted ads information are starting to let us understand what our online habits say about us and thus giving us the opportunity to find out why we are targeted with certain kinds of adverts (as well as ways to say when we don’t want to see those particular ads anymore). Another alternative is Acxiom – they aggregate all sorts of data about us from all sorts of sources, thus giving us a degree of insight – but they still don’t shed light on how we are being packaged together with data from other sources and how companies want to use that information.

The MetaData 

A second way we can find out how our data looks is by using browser plugins, and Sara Watson believes these are some of the best tools we have as users. The concept of metadata and what it might say about us is becoming increasingly interesting to a typical internet user, and tools such as the Immersion plugin (developed by MIT last year) can now help us work out what assumptions might be being made about us.

It’s important to remember, however, that these tools are really only just beginning to scratch the surface of personalised data monitoring – eventually we’ll need to develop even more advanced skills of interpretation. There are three steps to achieving this; 1) demand more narratives from the digital platforms we use, 2) engineer more plugins that allow us to interrogate the data more vigorously, and 3) we need to question default settings and the business models that support them – as Watson says, “As individuals we can all become a little more curious”.

What do you think? Are you concerned about privacy? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

CloudTweaks Comics
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