(TMU) — Recent reports indicate that data gathered by automakers and tech companies could be the next front in the battle over digital privacy.
In early January, companies at the CES 2020 displayed their plans for making use of the surprising amounts of data gathered by newer model vehicles. Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, and Blackberry were among the companies seeking partnerships with automakers who are also searching for methods to monetize the data gathered by their vehicles.
Bloomberg reports that “modern cars roll out of factories packed with cellular connections, powerful processors and growing suite of sensors, including cameras, radar and microphones. That’s turning them into the next information goldmine, rivaling the data-creating capabilities of smartphones.”
Bloomberg also notes that Intel announced a new stage of its Mobileye technology which allows for driver-assistance and Intel to gather data from cameras, chips, and sensors within the vehicle. Intel says this anonymous information is used to create detailed maps to enhance vehicle navigation systems. Intel has estimated that data gathered by vehicles will be worth as much as $3.5 billion by 2030. Bloomberg reports that consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that “up to $750 billion of value would created from car-related data by 2030.”
As the financial incentive for automotive data increases more companies will seek to enter this emerging marketplace. However, there are already serious privacy concerns related to the data being gathered by the vehicles. In December 2019 the Washington Post investigated how much information is gathered by one single computer in a 2017 Chevy Volt. The Post writes:
“In the 2020 model year, most new cars sold in the United States will come with built-in Internet connections, including 100 percent of Fords, GMs and BMWs and all but one model Toyota and Volkswagen. (This independent cellular service is often included free or sold as an add-on.) Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels, sending and receiving data from apps, insurance firms and pretty much wherever their makers want. Some brands even reserve the right to use the data to track you down if you don’t pay your bills.”
To determine just how much data was being collected, the Post worked with automotive technology expert Jim Mason to catch a glimpse of what vehicle manufacturers are capable of seeing. The Post and their expert learned that the vehicle was collecting a wide range of data including vehicle location and phone call records. Mason noted that any time you plug a smart phone into a vehicle the vehicle will likely copy personal data.
“Among the trove of data points were unique identifiers for my and Doug’s phones, and a detailed log of phone calls from the previous week. There was a long list of contacts, right down to people’s address, emails and even photos,” the Post reported. The vehicle also collected information on “acceleration and braking style, beaming back reports to its maker General Motors over an always-on Internet connection,” the Post added. “Coming next: face data, used to personalize the vehicle and track driver attention.”
Chevrolet does not currently have a policy of informing drivers about the data being recorded and the owner’s manual does not mention data collection. A spokesman for Chevrolet owner General Motors declined to offer specific details on data collection. However, the spokesman did note that data gathered by GM falls into three categories: vehicle location, vehicle performance, and driver behavior.
Unsurprisingly, the Post notes that with the coming 5G cellular network that promises to link cars to the internet, wireless connections will get cheaper, data more valuable, and “anything the car knows about you is fair game.”
Data collection by smart vehicles is only one of a myriad of privacy concerns related to the coming 5G Smart Grid where cities, vehicles, phones, streetlights, and clothes are fitted with sensors as part of the Internet of Things. It’s important to become educated about the threats posed by these emerging “smart devices.”
Only by actively fighting for and defending privacy can we hope to maintain any semblance of it.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.