Mark Goldberg


An internet of things or services?

In the wake of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Geoffrey Fowler’s recent piece in the Washington Post (reprinted in the Toronto Star) caught my eye. “How gadget-makers have gotten off track, and how tech can be great again” suggests that connected devices need to solve actual problems. “Putting a refrigerator on the internet isn’t in itself useful — it’s just more expensive.”

His article suggests 4 ways to make gadgets great again:

  • Respect our time: “I’m heartened to find products starting to explore not how to fill more of our time, but rather help us spend our time better.”
  • Security is not our job: “When I buy a car, I don’t have to purchase seatbelts and bumpers on my own — I trust the automaker took care of making it safe. But the electronics industry puts the responsibility for security largely on us, selling way too many smart products that are the equivalent of cars with zero-star safety ratings.”
  • Focus on the “Internet of Services,” not the “Internet of Things”: “Putting a refrigerator on the internet isn’t in itself useful — it’s just more expensive.”
  • Don’t lock us in: “I’ve got four different talking assistants on various devices in my house, but unfortunately my virtual staff doesn’t communicate well with each other.”

Fowler reflected some overlapping themes about system security that were raised by NY Times writer Zeynep Tufekci [reprinted in the National Post]: “We built our digital world too fast, and cut too many corners“.

Modern computing security is like a flimsy house that needs to be fundamentally rebuilt. In recent years, we have suffered small collapses here and there, and made superficial fixes in response. There has been no real accountability for the companies at fault, even when the failures were a foreseeable result of underinvestment in security or substandard practices rather than an outdated trade-off of performance for security.

He concludes noting that we continue to suffer through hack after hack, security failure after security failure.

If commercial airplanes fell out of the sky regularly, we wouldn’t just shrug. We would invest in understanding flight dynamics, hold companies accountable that did not use established safety procedures, and dissect and learn from new incidents that caught us by surprise.

And indeed, with airplanes, we did all that. There is no reason we cannot do the same for safety and security of our digital systems.

We will be exploring these issues and much more at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit, taking place June 4-6, in Toronto. Early bird rates are now available. Save more than $200 by registering before the end of February. Why not register today?

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