Monday, February 23, 2015

Convergence: The Inevitability Factor

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One of my favorite things to do for fun as well as work is watch TED Talks. Although I am a YouTube junkie, I have to say that TED has had some of the most stimulating, enjoyable "talks" on a variety of extremely interesting topics that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

This morning, about 3 a.m., I couldn't sleep as the cold and sore throat my wife had has finally made its way to my side of the bed. So I got up for a drink of water and a few minutes of computer time, which will end up to be hours as I'm working on a writing project for a well known national security company.

While in my office, I pulled up TED and watched an extremely interesting video presentation by Pranav Mistry (India) called The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology. I have not figured out how to stream video from TED, as I commonly do in conjunction with other video platforms, so you'll have to go to the TED website to watch it, but please allow me to have a few minutes of your time in which to share with you a little bit about this video, the man behind it, and his invention.

Pranav Mistry is an inventor, but even more, he's a visionary in every sense of the word. I would put him in the category of the late Steve Jobs who founded and propelled Apple into stardom. He was 28 at the time of his TED Talk, which was in 2009.

Mistry, who was practicing his wizardry at MIT at the time he made this video, invented a computer-based system that is mobile, will interact with the gestures and objects in the environment, as well as project and connect intent between digital and the real world. Mistry calls his invention SixthSense, "a wearable gestural interface."

According to Mistry, his intent was to bring the physical and digital worlds together in as intimate a manner as possible. Because people wear his invention, they can take it with them anywhere they want. I'd call this mobile computing at its best. But even more so, his invention solves several problems at the same time, which seems both efficient and sensible on its face.

First, it allows us to combine our laptop, camera, modem, cell phone, and any number of other items into a single, cohesive system. In a word, it lightens our load which can be extremely helpful to some. Secondly, it keeps us in contact with our email, cell phone, text messages, as well as our computer files and all the functionality inherent in a PC.

The Inevitability Factor
As a futurist myself, I see patterns in society and our technologies. Not only do I see patterns, but I see trends and I see something I like to call inevitability. Here's the inevitability where it relates to human-kind and our digital infatuation with technology:

One day in the future human kind has a rendezvous with these technologies as the various computerized gadgets we now commonly use migrate into the human body.

Where some might call this a marriage in heaven, others would call this convergence the work of the devil. I'm certain the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. But for just a moment, let's project outward--let's use our ability to visualize a world where our cell phone, lap top, and a million and one other things have converged with human-kind. Are there patterns, trends, and an inevitability factor beyond this point?

To me, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.

For this moment, please take the time to watch Mistry's work via TED. Think about a world where convergence finally takes place and the inevitability of that marriage and what the implication on society might be.

Weigh everything you know about human-kind, about politicians, about rich men of great power, and think about the governments they pay big bucks to control... and we'll revisit this subject on my next weblog posting. I'll give you my thoughts on the matter, but in the mean time, please give me yours.

Al Colombo


For the serious researcher:
ToganX.Info

Copyright©2014/Allan B. Colombo
www.alcolombo.us / al_colombo@hotmail.com
(Permission is given to republish blog posts providing
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Smart TV or Spy TV (Dumb TV)

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If George Orwell hadn't died in 1950, he'd be pretty proud of television manufacturers for inventing sets that contain cameras, speakers, and now, speech recognition with the capability of converting audio speech into digital data. I'm speaking of Samsung's smart TV that has the ability to listen in and send everything you say down the wire to others via the Internet.

As far fetched as it may sound, this is only be beginning. Read it for yourself!

The potential privacy intrusion of voice-activated services is massive. Samsung, which makes a series of Internet connected TVs, has a supplementary privacy policy covering its Smart TVs which includes the following section on voice recognition (emphasis mine):

You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands. If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition. (read it!)

Here's another headline, oddly enough from CNN: The camera in your TV is watching you.

I first became aware of this issue when reading a news item some years ago that told of China holding some kind of hack class among young teenagers where they were given an education on hacking. One of the projects was to hack the camera in an Internet-connected television.

Today's high-end televisions are almost all equipped with "smart" PC-like features, including Internet connectivity, apps, microphones and cameras. But a recently discovered security hole in some Samsung Smart TVs shows that many of those bells and whistles aren't ready for prime time.

The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs' built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you're watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information. (read it!)

Another story, published as far back as December, 2012, speaks of the same kind of vulnerability:

Smart TVs, particularly Samsung’s (005930) last few generations of flat screens, can be hacked to give attackers remote access according to a security startup called ReVuln. The company says it discovered a “zero-day exploit” that hackers could potentially use to perform malicious activities that range from stealing accounts linked through apps to using built-in webcams and microphones to spy on unsuspecting couch potatoes. Don’t panic just yet, though. In order for the exploit to be activated, a hacker needs to plug a USB drive loaded with malicious software into the actual TV to bypass the Linux-based OS/firmware on Samsung’s Smart TVs. But, if a hacker were to pull that off, every piece of data stored on a Smart TV could theoretically be retrieved.

As if the possibility of someone stealing your information and spying on you isn’t scary enough, according to ComputerWorld, “it is also possible to copy the configuration of a TV’s remote control, which would allow a hacker to copy the remote control’s settings, and remotely change the channel.” (read it)

Not sure I want a smart TV because it sounds pretty dumb to me.

Al Colombo


For the serious researcher:
ToganX.Info

Copyright©2014/Allan B. Colombo
www.alcolombo.us / al_colombo@hotmail.com
(Permission is given to republish blog posts providing
my contact information and copyright notice are included.)

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