Held once a year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the biggest trade show on the planet. This year was no exception - CES set new records with over 3,900 exhibitors and more than 2.75 million net square feet of exhibition space.
Topics for CES this year were the advent of 5G telecommunications, Smart Cities, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the evolution of IoT (Internet of Things) to that of IoT (Intelligence of Things), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). We will briefly touch upon each of these topics as we head into the main topic of this article – the hidden costs of technological advancement.
5G: The Base for New Developments
5G is exciting technology. It brings about connection speeds that far outclass those of current 4G LTE. We are talking transfer speeds an order of magnitude faster than LTE. 5G will reshape media consumption. No longer will we have to be tethered to consume content, paving the way for heavy data media like 4k High-definition, 3D content and Augmented Reality.
AI: The Holy Grail?
Artificial Intelligence was all the rage at CES this year, from startups claiming to have found the holy grail of AI to large corporations like NVIDIA showcasing their multicore neural networks. The most prevalent form of AI at CES this year was natural language processing (NLP), making its mark in the smart home via voice-activated products and virtual assistants, most of which are compatible with the likes of Amazon Alexa and “Hey Google”. Machine Learning (ML), another part of AI, took the show with Google showcasing their latest AI tool, DeepVariant. Definitely keep an eye out on the M&A space as companies begin to wheel and deal for more AI exposure.
IoT: A New Definition?
IoT has evolved from the internet of things to that of Intelligence of things at this year’s CES. NLP is more prevalent in smart home appliances and, with a bit of ML spice, are now able to pattern the living habits of their owners. These technologies are empowering an even more intelligent network of devices. Leading this space are companies like LG and Samsung, with their new integrated smart home appliances, which they unveiled at CES. Architects, engineers, and developers will have to start developing new spaces with IoT in mind.
AR: A Unicorn on the Way?
The Augmented Reality (AR) charge was led by Vuzix and their Vuzix Blade. A google glass-like device that has a Heads-Up Display (HUD) directly on the lens. Being able to pull up a map to get AR adjusted directions around the conference hall space of Vuzix was spectacular. The possible applications are nearly limitless. Augmented Reality applications may very well be the future of content development and consumption. It is probable that the next start-up unicorn may come from this space.
The Hidden Costs of these Technologies
What an exciting CES! So what were the hidden costs in all these advancements, you may ask? Simply put, the security aspects of these devices and the new communications landscape they are enabling are largely overlooked amid all the excitement.
I asked questions with regards to basic security implementations to both startups and larger companies alike. Responses I received were similar in fashion - passing security off as something to be considered later, but not important to the technology itself. It was obvious they were not looking to address questions about the possible risks of these new technologies.
Let us build a hypothetical scenario and explore why this lack of attention to security should concern us. Peering into the networks connecting these devices, and indeed breaking into such networks for nefarious purposes, is much easier than most people would imagine. Many devices at CES utilized open wireless protocols; insecure communication standards – the type of flaws that would allow any malicious actor full control of an entire system. It is more important for them to get these products out there first and fix security later with patches - after your system and privacy have already been compromised.
Now, imagine you purchased that fancy new security camera system from vendor A. It has all the great advantages of AI and ML built into it. What if a malicious entity had taken over your home or office security network through the security flaws stated above, without you knowing it, and is now able to learn your daily habits from the database of the very cameras meant to secure your home or office, and used this for malicious purposes?
What It All Means
These are real situations with real implications. And at this point in time, the security risks of the next wave of technological advancements seem to be an afterthought, at best. TeamRed, the startup that I co-founded, is designing a single, cost-effective solution, for the home or office. This will secure the privacy and devices of people throughout the world, freeing everyone from the worries of identity theft, ransomware, and other online threats that are more prevalent now than ever. Perhaps next year TeamRed will be present at CES to further raise awareness about the importance of security.