Tag Archives: privacy

The Social Internet of Things and an Old Can of Privacy Worms

The internet of things is coming. And then it will go social. As this video – posted in March 2011, almost 3 years ago! – from Ericsson (still a name then!) illustrates. Have a look:

Imagine a fridge that messages you to tell you that the milk expires today.
Looks great doesn’t it? And then the privacy issues will come in. Notice in the video, the man appears to have blocked his girlfriend from seeing his activity in order to surprise her (Video: 0’26”). So, you see, even in the future – we will still need lists and privacy settings. We’ll still have to make decisions about what we post, when and who will see it – for both good reasons as well as not-so-good reasons.

Just as people grapple with and complain about online privacy issues today, they will continue to struggle with balancing pros and cons as social expands beyond the mobile gadget and web browser. When your home or office knows your location, for example, you will have to think about who ought to know. If at all.

Imagine your sofa telling the TV to turn off because you’ve dozed off.
Now imagine: what about businesses? How will a typical business deal with the social internet of things? What will it be like, when your photocopier/printer, office desk, telephone, room, water cooler all become part of the internet of things? Would you welcome such a technology paradigm? The meeting room prepares itself for a presentation 15 minutes before a big meeting. The printer orders extra cartridges knowing that next week, a big report is due.

Imagine an office that arranges a meeting for 10 people in one-click
But: just like useful social apps on mobile phones, would we run into issues of having or giving out too much information? Would employees like the idea of their boss knowing when they are in the pantry? Would the boss like it if his employees knew exactly where he is all the time? When he arrives in the morning? Some would say this is useful information. I imagine a system that automatically arranges a meeting for X number of people based on knowing their needs, their schedule and location. Just tap YES to confirm. Productivity would shoot through the roof(?)!

Imagine a boutique that can find out the clothing sizes of customers who walk in.
But, at some point, people will start to say they’re uncomfortable with being findable anywhere, anytime. They don’t want to leave digital footprints – let alone social ones – in the office. Some will even say the internet of things is a security hazard – who knows if that WiFi-connected microwave is listening to discussions at the pantry?

Companies will balk. They will start to shy away. They will question. They will want to play safe. And then, they will simply say they don’t want any part of it. Networked machines will not be allowed in office.

galatica

The rest of the world will move on, especially among consumers and homes. Consumers will play with the social network of things. Yes they will complain about privacy issues too, but they’ll use it anyway, like smartphones and Facebook. Then one day, some companies will realize they are falling behind their customers. Companies which resist the advancing tide of consumer technology will realize that they don’t really understand the market. Just like how today, consumers are ahead of businesses in use of social. Consumers have higher expectations because they have more experience adopting social.

Businesses may recognize the need – they may try to design services which are social B2C, but because they do not adopt it internally, their appreciation is limited. It’s like how many businesses market to customers with social tools, but do not use social tools within the company.

We can be certain that the internet of things will come, and that it will become social. It will have privacy issues. It may even suffer the occasional massive hack/breach disaster. It will also have many as-yet undiscovered uses and advantages. We’ll have to use it to understand how to deal with it. Above all, we cannot use “Not a priority”, “No budget”, “Lack of management support” and other barriers that have long plagued implementation of social media as an excuse to hide from the reality that it is important. The future will only get more connected.

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Google Glass is an Inevitable Technology (Just Like Social Media)

Since its debut, Google Glass has had its fair share of raves….. and a lot more ranting. It is absolutely, completely, utterly, 100%-ly NOT surprising that the first thing people jumped on is the issue of privacy. It’s been talked about, debated, speculated upon (with suspicion), fingers pointed at, and is still being questioned.

But you know what? Despite all these threats to the technology’s viability, I believe it will still win in the end. This is because, Google Glass represents an Inevitable Technology. It is a technological concept, like radio, screens, wireless internet, rechargeable power sources, recycling and not forgetting social media, that makes sense. So long as you take away the “petty” concerns, the idea makes so much sense and has so much true value that it is inevitable that it must exist.

scifi contact lens
Life imitates sci-fi as contact lens displays inch closer to reality (2009)

Granted, Google Glass is not perfect – and by “Inevitable” I do not say it is perfect. The idea is inevitable, not this particular manifestation of the idea. The idea that we will wear information displays on our head, before our eyes, is as inevitable as the idea that the phone must leave behind its wires to the wall (and go mobile).

So, while people continue to debate the problems of Google Glass, the technology will not die. It will get better and better, until either one day the privacy/security issues are resolved, or the value the technology provides so far outweighs the alleged dangers, that no one cares anymore. Like how we continue to “ignore” the danger of mobile phones microwaving our brains; like how we continue our addiction to social media despite all its privacy issues.

So I say, be patient – don’t strike off the technological concept just because its firstborn manifestation is imperfect. Google knows this, and that’s why it’s always, for want of a better term, trying stuff. Google has a reputation for rolling out controversial services and eventually shutting them down. Many see this as a weakness and laugh. But I see in them a spirit of innovation. We tend to forget that many others are not shut down but continue to evolve. Whether or not the Google Glass as a device will be killed in the future, I am not certain. But the technological concept (info display on eyepiece/eye), I still believe is here to stay. Google may have to face the brunt of privacy advocates’ rants, but – at least they tried the innovation. Dare you?

Some technologies are fads, some are too far ahead of its time, others are born immature; some will die, others are inevitable.