Connecting the dots for smart devices - how government can better understand new technology
Digital innovation conjures up images of shiny gadgets and big industrial robots. It can also have significant impact via small, unassuming devices sitting in every home. According to a recent Economist article, Siemens, Manetos and other companies are developing smart fuse boxes. These would not only protect against electrical fires more effectively, but also control power consumption such as turning off lights automatically when no one is around or adjusting heating.
This technological innovation is a great example of the benefits of ‘going digital’. At Readie, we share this excitement, but also want to ensure policymakers understand the full implications of new technologies to make informed, grounded and data-driven decisions.
For example, security and reliability are increasingly becoming a concern for governments and innovators alike. These are not always the focus for device manufacturers, but come sharply into focus once they are compromised. This is especially true for seemingly harmless applications such as light bulbs and fish tanks.
If smart circuit breakers are “updated over the internet” what happens if the connection is slow or unreliable? Does the device go offline for 20 minutes every four weeks – or much longer, if, say an update fails and the device can’t reset itself? Likewise, the fact that they “could be controlled by a smartphone app” raises questions about security and whether they could be hacked. With a central element of home safety at stake, this could be an alarming scenario.
When we as individuals and society decide where and how to integrate new technology into our lives we need to make sure these scenarios have been properly tested and investigated. Policymakers need to ensure safety standards are updated to reflect risks. Businesses need to make sure that devices they sell are secure.
When learning about technology and when using technology, we must make sure that we keep thinking about technology. New inventions will make this less necessary, rendering our lives safer and more comfortable, but we need to maintain enough thought to make sure nothing important gets left behind.