During an episode of the popular TV show Homeland, the vice president was killed by an attack on his pacemaker. While this produced gripping drama on television, it has since become practical reality. It brings into question the accessibility and our lack of control over data collected by our own internet of things.
Fastprk: Efficiency and Enforcement
In Barcelona, Spain, the city deployed a parking system developed by a company called Worldsensing. The system is known as Fastprk. It’s a real-time data collection system that gathers information about the availability of local parking and transmits it to the driver who has the Fastprk application on his mobile phone device. Instead of trolling through the parking structure looking for a green light, the information is streamed direct to the mobile phone through the Fastprk app.
It will then tell the person that there is a spot open on the third floor of a particular lot; or eventually, even that there is a street-level spot open on the next block over. The benefits of Fastprk are obvious. It’ll reduce congestion in central Barcelona, and in the long run, reduce carbon dioxide emissions—and aid in the fight of global warming.
With Fastprk, one’s identity, and the time of their parking interaction, are immediately shared across the network with the product developer—Worldsensing; and in the absence of some restriction, this information is then also shared with their customer—the city of Barcelona.
Now, imagine that they’ve overstayed their allotted time. Perhaps the space specified a two-hour limit. The Fastprk app has a sensor tied to that space and will know exactly how long they’ve occupied it. The charges are transmitted directly to the app using the Internet. Parking efficiency goes up, to be sure, but so does parking enforcement.
This is a transcript from the video series The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Memo Box is an internet-enabled pillbox that will know when a person is supposed to take their medication and gives them a gentle reminder to do so.
It’s actually an incredibly sophisticated device, with a cloud-computing server to which it is connected; sensors track when users open it and take out a pill. This smart pillbox is so sophisticated that it even has a double-dose alarm.
It knows if you’ve recently opened the Memo Box and will ask you to check to be sure that you haven’t already taken the dose you thought you might need. And the Memo Box learns your habits. It can make an educated guess if one has opened the pillbox by accident.
Learn more about unauthorized surveillance programs.
Advantages and Downside
For those of us with elderly parents or relatives with dementia and other conditions that limit the ability to provide self-care—like former military service members with traumatic brain injuries—this intelligent pillbox sounds like a godsend. It’ll help those with failing mental capacity maintain their medical doses despite their problems.
As always, the wonders of the network of things seem almost sublime. Yet, the potential downside is this: What are the consequences if one skips a dose, and their smart pillbox sends out the alarm? If their doctor’s notified, what will he do? What about their health insurer? Do we want to relinquish our capacity to share or withhold that type of information?
On the other hand, isn’t it reasonable for the doctor and the insurer to want accurate information about whether or not a person is taking their medicine regularly? The intrusiveness of the inquiry and the Internet of Things, is palpable. But the justification for keeping our personal failures secret is—well, also troubling. Tools like Memo Box force us to be honest with our self and others, and that does make us uncomfortable.
Smart Tire Gauge
Let’s turn now, for a moment, to data collection that does not directly reveal our activities. At least at first glance, those aspects of the Internet of Things seem decidedly less problematic but equally disruptive, if not more so.
Let’s say, for example, that our automobile tire has a a smart tire gauge and tells us that it’s low in pressure. What do we do? Well, we fix it, of course. But do we have a duty to fix it? What if we put it off for a day or two and something bad happens? If the information isn’t recorded, we are under a general obligation to make sure our car is running well. But we’d never be found negligent for damage caused by a crash that happened because our tire pressure was too low.
For the sake of this example, let’s presume that we don’t have a smart tire gauge. We aren’t just expected to keep track of our tire pressure on a daily basis. How does that change when we start to have perfect knowledge? If our tire tells us that it’s low, we might now have an obligation to correct the flaw immediately.
And, of course, in the world of the Internet of Things, it isn’t just tires. Every component in our car will be reporting to us on a minute-by-minute basis. And that, in turn, might make us legally responsible for keeping our car in perfect, tip-top shape. Are we sure that’s an obligation we want?
Learn more about commercial data aggregation.
The Challenges of Technology
When George W. Bush was President and in the hospital briefly, the Vice President, Dick Cheney—who suffered from well-documented heart problems—went so far as to turn off his pacemaker while he briefly ran the country.
Was Dick Cheney thinking about the same sorts of dangers to himself as the Internet of Things poses to many others?
No doubt the benefits of the internet of things are tempting, still the issue of privacy and lack of control over the data collected is troubling. It definitely isn’t an easy choice to make and makes us question how much or how little do we actually deliberate while choosing these gadgets.
Common Questions about Data Collected by the Internet of Things
Fastprk is a real-time data collection system that is used in Barcelona, Spain. It gathers information about the availability of local parking and transmits it to the driver who has the Fastprk application using the Internet on his mobile phone device.
Memo Box is an intelligent pillbox. It is an internet-enabled pillbox that will know when a person is supposed to take their medication and gives them a gentle reminder to do so.
For people with elderly parents or relatives with dementia and other conditions that limit the ability to provide self-care—Memo Box sounds like a godsend. It’ll help those with failing mental capacity maintain their medical doses despite their problems.