Frank Palermo, EVP, Virtusa, advises CIOs on how they should be getting to grips with the latest technologies such as 5G, to evolve with the modernising tech landscape. He suggests that vendors need to rethink regulation to manage in the digital world.
As is tradition, this January we’ve been treated to a host of bold predictions about how our lives and businesses will be transformed by technology this year. It’s hard to move for people prognosticating about Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence or Virtual Reality. But all these predictions beg the question: have we reached a saturation point? Are we actually in control of the technology we create?
Technologists might insist that anyone who isn’t on board is a Luddite but there is a growing feeling that technology simply isn’t working for people in the way that was promised. Recent research found that 32% of people believe technology will cause more harm than good over the next decade. Nor are these concerns unfounded when we consider some of the impacts of technology such as digital addiction, digital duress and the erosion of human interaction. So, rather than focusing on the shiny new technology that’s right around the corner, here are just three aspects of technology we need to get a grip on urgently.
1. The true cost of 5G
5G, the fifth generation of mobile technology, has been heralded as the enabler of a tech revolution as it will allow for lightning fast data transfers between billions of devices around the world. There are clear benefits of 5G technology, including helping Internet of Things (IoT) to achieve its full potential which could better connect people, organisations and cities. For instance, 5G could save lives by allowing doctors to perform remote surgery when people have been in car accidents without having to wait for them to get to a hospital.
But there are rising safety concerns around the deployment of 5G technology which uses high-frequency waves to reach higher speeds. Large cell towers will need to be replaced with smaller towers closer to the ground and users than ever before. Opposition to 5G is already emerging in the US with concerns over additional radiation exposure as a result of deploying local 5G networks. Some studies are linking 5G waves to heart problems, birth defects, decreased antibiotic sensitivity, cataracts and immune system suppression. The reality is there have not been enough studies conducted. We need to develop clear safety regulations and conduct better testing of 5G technologies prior to widespread launch.
2. Another data breach?
In the first half of 2018, there were 945 data breaches leading to 4.5 billion data records being compromised. The record-breaking amounts of data were stolen from multiple companies. It felt like every month we learned about a new mega-breach. In September 2018, Facebook announced that 50 million user accounts had been comprised, the largest in the company’s history. In November it became public that 500 million customers of Marriott/Starwood had their data stolen. Finally, the year ended with Quora announcing in December that 100 million user accounts had been compromised.
No wonder we’re collectively developing ‘security fatigue’ and no longer have any faith that corporations can adequately protect our data. The unsurprising result is that half of all consumers are now giving ‘fake data’ when online. While legislation like GDPR represents a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before we will feel happy giving up our data.
3. Privacy concerns
Digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are gaining momentum. Gartner predicts that within four years, a quarter of us will have some form of smart speaker or digital assistant. These devices can be very useful but they are also stealing time from traditional hobbies with 45% of users listening to less radio, 32% reading less and 29% watching less TV. On top of that, we’re seeing an increasing number of reports of rogue behaviour from these smart speakers. Users report incidents of spontaneous laughter, sending private audio without permission and recording private conversations.
We’re being told that these devices are fully secure and vendors often cite a series of improbable events as the cause behind these mishaps. But the reality is that 48% of consumers surveyed said they were concerned about privacy issues associated with their smart speakers, showing that, for all the convenience, perhaps we’re just not that happy with the idea of being listened to by a faceless tool 24/7.
A regulated solution
In order to solve this feeling that tech isn’t working for us, we need to shift our thinking in some key ways and a crucial one is how the tech industry sees regulation. Innovation and regulation have been seen as enemies for decades. Yet inventors of new technologies are constantly unable to predict all of the negative ways it can be used and the current free market system is clearly no longer working to ensure end-user privacy. The breakneck speed of Digital Transformation is leaving the public and governments behind so quickly that they are unable to keep up.
Therefore we need to rethink regulation to manage in the digital world. We need vendors, not just governments, to become more accountable. Firms need to re-evaluate their emphasis on ease of use over security. Users want and deserve both and until they get it, we should all be lobbying for better regulation. So as we launch into 2019, why don’t we spend more time hardening the technology we have before moving to the next set of shiny tech toys?