Business / Technology

Gadgets around us will keep getting smarter

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-01-23 06:58

Gadgets around us will keep getting smarter

A pianist wears special gloves with motion sensors and plays a keyboard at the Wearable Device Technology Expo in Tokyo. Music instruments maker Yamaha developed the gloves with 12 sensors of flexible nanomaterial to monitor the finger movements of players. [Photo/Agencies]

Every additional benefit involves a threat to privacy

Our cars, our homes, our appliances and even our toys: Things around us are going to keep getting smarter. In 2016, we'll entrust even more of our lives and their intimate details to machines - not to mention the companies that run them.

Are we ready for that?

You might, for instance, like the idea of turning on your TV with a spoken command - no more fumbling for the remote. But for that to work, the TV needs to be listening all the time, even when you're not watching. And even when you're discussing something extremely personal, or engaged in some other activity to which you'd rather not invite eavesdroppers.

How much should you worry? Maybe your TV never records any of your casual conversations. Or maybe its manufacturer is recording all that, but just to find ways to make the TV better at understanding what you want it to do. Or maybe it retains everything it hears for some other hidden purpose.

You may never know for sure. At best, you can hope the company keeps its promises on privacy. More important, you have to trust that its computer systems are really secure, or those promises are suddenly worthless. That part is increasingly difficult to guarantee-or believe as hacking becomes routine.

And here's the chief quandary: Every technological benefit comes with a cost in the form of a threat to privacy. Yet not paying that price has its own cost: An inability to participate in some of technology's greater achievements.

Because smart gadgets thrive on data-data about you and your habits, data about what large numbers of people do or say or appear to want in particular situations - it's difficult not to share pretty much everything with them. Doing otherwise would be like turning off your phone's location services, which disables many of its most useful features.

The consequences aren't restricted to phones and TVs:

Kids will be able to talk to more toys and get personalized, computer-generated responses. Does the "don't talk to strangers" rule apply if the stranger is the Hello Barbie talking doll or Dino, the dinosaur powered by IBM's Watson artificial-intelligence system?

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