ENTRIES TAGGED "Internet of Things"

Big data and privacy: an uneasy face-off for government to face

MIT workshop kicks off Obama campaign on privacy

Thrust into controversy by Edward Snowden’s first revelations last year, President Obama belatedly welcomed a “conversation” about privacy. As cynical as you may feel about US spying, that conversation with the federal government has now begun. In particular, the first of three public workshops took place Monday at MIT.

Given the locale, a focus on the technical aspects of privacy was appropriate for this discussion. Speakers cheered about the value of data (invoking the “big data” buzzword often), delineated the trade-offs between accumulating useful data and preserving privacy, and introduced technologies that could analyze encrypted data without revealing facts about individuals. Two more workshops will be held in other cities, one focusing on ethics and the other on law.

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Machine Data at Strata: “BigData++”

By David Andrzejewski of SumoLogic

Photo Courtesy of David Andrzejewski

Photo Courtesy of David Andrzejewski

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting the machine data track of talks at Strata Santa Clara. Like “big data”, the phrase “machine data” is associated with multiple (sometimes conflicting) definitions, ­two prominent ones come from Curt Monash and Daniel Abadi. The focus of the machine data track is on data which is generated and/or collected automatically by machines. This includes software logs and sensor measurements from systems as varied as mobile phones, airplane engines, and data centers. The concept is closely related to the “internet of things”, which refers to the trend of increasing connectivity and instrumentation in existing devices, like home thermostats.

More data, more problems
This data can be useful for the early detection of operational problems or the discovery of opportunities for improved efficiency. However, the de­coupling of data generation and collection from human action means that the volume of machine data can grow at machine scales (i.e., Moore’s Law), an issue raised by both Monash and Abadi. This explosive growth rate amplifies existing challenges associated with “big data”. ­ In particular two common motifs among the talks at Strata were the difficulties around:

  1. mechanics: the technical details of data collection, storage, and analysis
  2. semantics: extracting understandable and actionable information from the data deluge

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Internet of Things in celebration and provocation at MIT

IoTFest reveals exemplary applications as well as challenges

Last Saturday’s IoT Festival at MIT became a meeting ground for people connecting the physical world. Embedded systems developers, security experts, data scientists, and artists all joined in this event. Although it was called a festival, it had a typical conference format with speakers, slides, and question periods. Hallway discussions were intense.

However you define the Internet of Things (O’Reilly has its own take on it, in our Solid blog site and conference), a lot stands in the way of its promise. And these hurdles are more social than technical.

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Software, hardware, everywhere

Software and hardware are moving together, and the combined result is a new medium.

Real and virtual are crashing together. On one side is hardware that acts like software: IP-addressable, controllable with JavaScript APIs, able to be stitched into loosely-coupled systems—the mashups of a new era. On the other is software that’s newly capable of dealing with the complex subtleties of the physical world—ingesting huge amounts of data, learning from it, and making decisions in real time.

The result is an entirely new medium that’s just beginning to emerge. We can see it in Ars Electronica Futurelab’s Spaxels, which use drones to render a three-dimensional pixel field; inBaxter, which layers emotive software onto an industrial robot so that anyone can operate it safely and efficiently; in OpenXC, which gives even hobbyist-level programmers access to the software in their cars; in SmartThings, which ties Web services to light switches.

The new medium is something broader than terms like “Internet of Things,” “Industrial Internet,” or “connected devices” suggest. It’s an entirely new discipline that’s being built by software developers, roboticists, manufacturers, hardware engineers, artists, and designers.

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A world where everything is hackable

​It’s been a weird couple of weeks for the Internet of Things. As we connect everything to everything else, we inadvertently create a huge attack surface for hackers, and we’re starting to see the chinks in the armor.

Let’s say you fancy a fast car. Flavio Garcia, a University of Birmingham computer scientist, discovered the algorithim that verifies the ignition key for luxury cars like Porsches, Audis, Bentleys, and Lamborghinis. He was slapped with an injunction to ban him from disclosing his findings at the Usenix Security Symposium in order to prevent sophisticated criminal gangs from having the analytics tools for widespread car theft.

You might need Garcia’s algorithm to steal a car, but soon, with an entirely different algorithm, you may be able to crash one into a tree or disable its brakes from a distance. ​Or maybe it’s a fast boat you’re after. Mess with its GPS, and you can steer it where you want without the crew noticing.

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Strata Week: Wireless body area networks bring humans into the Internet of Things

Humans as nodes, pills and electronic tattoo password authenticators, NSA surveillance leaks, and hiding data in temporal cloaks.

Collaborative sensor networks of humans, and your body may be the next two-factor authenticator

There has been much coverage recently of the Internet of Things, connecting everything from washers and dryers to thermostats to cars to the Internet. Wearable sensors — things like FitBit and health-care-related sensors that can be printed onto fabric or even onto human skin — are also in the spotlight.

Kevin Fitchard reports at GigaOm that researchers at CEA-Leti and three French universities believe these areas are not mutually exclusive and have launched a project around wireless body area networks called CORMORAN. The group believes that one day soon our bodies will be constantly connected to the Internet via sensors and transmitters that “can be used to form cooperative ad hoc networks that could be used for group indoor navigation, crowd-motion capture, health monitoring on a massive scale and especially collaborative communications,” Fitchard writes. He takes a look at some of the benefits and potential applications of such a collaborative network — location-based services would be able to direct users to proper gates or trains in busy airports and train stations, for instance — and some of the pitfalls, such as potential security and privacy issues. You can read his full report at GigaOm.

In related news, wearable sensors — and even our bodies — may not only be used to connect us to a network, but also to identify us as well. Read more…

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Strata Week: The power of the Internet, wielded by machines and things

Jon Bruner's industrial Internet report; IBM, Belkin, and the Internet of Things; cars as software platforms; and coding is the job of the future.

Soon, everything will be an Internet platform

Ben Schiller at Fast Company took a look this week at a recent report by Jon Bruner on the industrial Internet. “According to Jon Bruner [the industrial Internet] is ‘machines becoming nodes on pervasive networks that use open protocols,’” writes Schiller. “And, to many others, it is as a big a deal as the Internet itself: essentially completing a job that’s only half-finished with web sites, email, Twitter, and so on.”

Shiller pulls some highlights from Bruner’s report, especially noting how the industrial Internet will effect various industries, such as energy, health care, and transport. Read more…

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Big data not only will change our world, it will change the world we imagine

It's not a big data bubble — it's a big data revolution; connected cars are here; and executives get in on big data.

The magnitude of big data’s role eclipses the hype

In a post at NPR, Adam Frank argued that the potential and extent of big data’s role and influence in our world is akin to the role the steam engine played in technological and scientific advances in the 19th century.

Frank highlighted a piece at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which one detractor warned against becoming “bewitched” by data or expecting it to “replace our traditional methods of discovering the truth,” and argued that human intuition will still be required to achieve understanding. Frank wrote that while the writer’s point is taken, it doesn’t diminish the magnitude of big data’s potential:

“I believe there is something real and powerful happening in the Big Data revolution. It’s more than just a fad. It’s the next link in the long chain connecting culture and technology to human history. … Through new fields like data science and network theory, Big Data will not only change the world we move through as individuals, it will change the world we imagine through science.”

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Strata Week: Political data mining “bait-and-switch”

Inaugural 2013 app has plans for your data, the "unprecedented" security issues of the Internet of Things, and optical switches speed up data centers.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Inaugural 2013 app takes as much as it gives

Inaugural2013appThe Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) launched the first official inaugural smartphone app, Inaugural 2013 (for iOS and for Android), Monday. Daniel Strauss reports in a post at The Hill that inauguration attendees can use the app to locate and RSVP to events, watch events via livestream, and navigate the event with an interactive map.

What isn’t front and center in the pomp and circumstance of the shiny new app are the terms of service and the privacy statement. Steve Friess at Politico points out that in the fine print, users are giving the PIC permission to share their data — phone numbers, email, home addresses, and GPS location data, for instance — “with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that [the PIC] believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives.”

Gregory Ferenstein reports at TechCrunch that “privacy advocates find it troubling that the fine-print on the PIC’s website says it can use activity data ‘without limitation in advertising, fundraising and other communications in support of PIC and the principles of the Democratic party, without any right of compensation or attribution.’”

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Strata Week: Big data’s big future

Big data in 2013, and beyond; the Sunlight Foundation's new data mining app; and the growth of our planet's central nervous system.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big data will continue to be a big deal

“Big data” became something of a buzz phrase in 2012, with its role in the US Presidential election, and businesses large and small starting to realize the benefits and challenges of mountains upon zettabytes of data — so much so that NPR’s linguist contributor Geoff Nunberg thinks it should have been the phrase of the year.

Nunberg says that though “it didn’t get the wide public exposure given to items like ‘frankenstorm,’ ‘fiscal cliff‘ and YOLO,” and might not have been “as familiar to many people as ‘Etch A Sketch’ and ’47 percent’” were during the election, big data has become a phenomenon affecting our lives: “It’s responsible for a lot of our anxieties about intrusions on our privacy, whether from the government’s anti-terrorist data sweeps or the ads that track us as we wander around the Web.” He also notes that big data has transformed statistics into “a sexy major” and predicts the term will long outlast “Gangnam Style.” (You can read Nunberg’s full case for big data at NPR.)

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