Who is a Pilot at Age 3? Predicting Behaviors and Fixations with the Internet of Things
On the day that Ben was born, his parents André and Sandra already set up a monitor in his crib to monitor his sleeping pattern and to prevent crib death. The device included various sensors, which data was data analyzed and processed in the Cloud. Ben’s parents had access to information and various recommendations, including suggested changes in Ben’s diet and daily schedule, in order to improve his quality of life and human development.
After a few months, his parents gave Ben small development toys, toys that motivated Ben to develop various motor and computer functions, while at the same time analyzing his cognitive and motor development and tracking his pace of progress. The system provided Ben’s parents with a set of recommendations including additional toys that will help Ben reach his potential and which the system assessed Ben needed to be strengthened and improved. Understandably, Ben’s parents are very concerned about his development and want only the very best for him. Ben’s father bought an additional toy, which was recommended by the system.
A few weeks later, Ben’s parents received a warning from the game’s mobile application that there was a concern that their son would in the future suffer from a lack of concentration. The app recommended that Ben’s parent consult an expert while presenting his parents a list of several experts living near them. Ben’s parents who worry about his health and development, turned to an expert included in their medical insurance plan. The expert diagnosed their son but did not find any specific problem and recommended to set up another meeting a year later
Ben’s parents had forgotten what happened and their son developed well. After several years Ben reached official school age but when his parents received the school registration documents they were surprised that he would not go to school with his friends but was referred to a special education kindergarten.
This story may sound absurd, but with all the good that comes with the Internet of Things we need to recognize other sides of this technology. The Internet of Things is a wonderful thing but we even with this we are not always aware where the information is and who may access it. We do not read the fine print and are not aware what companies may be doing with the information it gathers. In order to understand the risks of the Internet of Things we need to understand how these systems operate.
The Internet of Things and wearable tech consists of several layers. The first layer is the hardware: it may be a game or bracelet that we wear on our arm that records our sleeping habits and movements. That same hardware sends to the Cloud the information from all users of the product and creates a large collection of information (“Big Data”). In the Cloud the information is analyzed by cross-referencing against other users and monitoring changes in the user’s behavior. The information is analyzed by algorithms and machine learning (“Machine Learning”). After analyzing the information, the “Machine” sends some of the information to your cell phone or computer for recommendations, ideas for improvement, and additional notes on your “Work”.
Most companies that market wearing products or products based on the Internet of Things do not stop here — but use the information to design and create additional products and business models that will be a growth engine for the company. Additionally, some of the information collected from all the users. Really, here is the big money. The information collected can be sold to advertisers, stakeholders, researchers, government and institutional entities.
As an example we will take a refrigerator connected to the Internet of Things. The refrigerator can make it easier for us to organize purchases and to let you know as soon as a product is available. Maybe this automation will be something wonderful. But that refrigerator will also know our eating habits, what time we eat and what we eat, who in the household is eating what, how much we eating and at what rate by calculating the amount of the product when it is taken out of the refrigerator until it is returned, etc . . . . Imagine for yourself that this information was sold to an insurance company and you had diabetes or another disease and the insurance company cancels your insurance premium because your dietary habits are defective
For a moment, let’s go back to the toys connected to the Internet. The analysis done on Ben may erroneously predict his future in the educational system and to create an idée fixe about the appropriate educational framework for him and in the future it may influence his employment in one place or another. Today we collect a great deal of information about us through social networks, cell phone use habits, location data, etc . . . . but with wearable tech and the Internet of Things information about us will be collected as if we were attached to a truth machine 24 hours a day even while we sleep. This information may chart our future and to create frameworks that we may not be able to leave from.
Today, it is very common in the world of applications to publish different versions of the application to different groups (“A-B Testing”) and thereby create focus groups from which you can learn where the software generates more income or even how the software can be improved. The same process can be done with games connected to the Internet of Things, in one city the toy can function in one way and in another city in another way; in other words your children are turned into an experiment by the product developer.
While it is true that this already exists in every mobile or computer game that children play, but the fact that the experience has a physical element is much stronger. That same game’s remote controller is also available for malicious exploitation. Imagine a city where smart-Lego™ suddenly becomes more difficult to assemble and more complicated, and children in the whole city become frustrated.
As parents, we need to know that the new technologies are developing faster than the regulatory process. Product developers often need to bring their products to market as fast as possible, in order to gain relative advantage over competitors and to claim the largest potential market share. This happens at the expense of a lack of emphasis on privacy as part of the development process and product design (“Security and Privacy by Design”). And if a measure of privacy is developed internally it is done without any regulatory process, which can ultimately harm the privacy of end users and expose sensitive information to various parties — some of whom may be malicious.