In the past, technology firm Democracy Live has used a cloud-based platform to send ballots to U.S. military and overseas citizens around the world. Submariners, ambassadors in Paris and scientists working in an Antarctic lab are among those who have cast their votes using this electronic ballot.
But they are the outliers. We can buy movie tickets, order cars and even pay our taxes online, but for most of us, voting is a distinctly analog experience. We walk into a polling place and have our names penciled off by hand in a giant ledger before entering a booth with our paper ballot and pen or ink blotter.
So when will we see the era of online voting? The short and quick answer: no time soon.
“Voters are satisfied in the way they cast their ballots,” says Eric Jaye of consulting firm Storefront Political Media. “They prefer the security of a paper ballot and have worked to ensure even when the vote is cast technologically, there is a paper record.”
Democracy Live President Bryan Finney points out that most stateside voters (eight out of 10) this election will be marking their choices on paper or using an electric machine that creates a paper trail, even though that can actually cost more than if the states were to upgrade their voting to an online system.
That’s because security is still paramount. As we saw with the recent hack that took out Twitter, Netflix and other sites by exploiting the Internet of Things, there are real issues around online security, and until they are addressed, government officials are understandably wary of trusting something as important as an election to the internet.
Every minute of the day, eCare21, a remote patient-monitoring system, collects thousands of pieces of health data about more than 1,000 senior citizens. The telehealth system uses smartphones, Fitbits, Bluetooth and sensors to collect information about things like blood pressure, physical activity, glucose levels, medication intake and weight. The information is then compiled on a dashboard so that the patients’ doctors, loved ones and caregivers can keep an eye on them and provide proactive care, even from hundreds of miles away.
This is proving to be a valuable service for individuals managing complicated health situations. But Vadim Cherdak, CEO and president of eCare21, says we are only scratching the surface. Once his company partners with a big data analytics service, it will be able to glean even more useful insights from the intense amount of data flowing in.
Cherdak expects to be able to deeply analyze the data to provide better alerts and tailored recommendations for patients and caregivers. Cherdak has been looking at big data systems such as IBM Watson, Cloudvara and Hortonworks, but the industry is still in the pioneering stages. No one yet knows the best way to make sense of the vast troves of data.
This kind of telehealth — which eliminates geographical constraints by using technology to help people receive timely medical care no matter where they are — is on the upswing. In fact, according to the National Business Group on Health, nine in 10 large employers will provide telehealth services to their employees in 2017. By 2019, NBG predicts, this number will leap to 97%.
Telemedicine may alleviate some of the struggles currently facing the health-care industry. We have an aging population, a shortage of physicians and an increasing need to manage chronic diseases. We also need to keep burgeoning health-care costs in check. Thanks to “constant technological innovation, increasing remote patient monitoring and rising use of treatments that require long follow-ups,” Mordor Intelligence predicts that the global telemedicine market will reach more than $34 billion by 2020.
Some horrifying stories surfaced recently about glaring data security vulnerabilities for the Internet of Things. A company called Shodan, which is a search engine for connected devices, has had no trouble pulling up video camera feeds of sleeping babies, marijuana plants and schoolrooms. The site found insecure connections for everything from traffic lights to ice rinks. Those gaps are a hacker’s playground, and they should worry consumers and companies hoping to capitalize on the market for Internet-connected devices of all kinds.
By collecting data from things like lightbulbs, factories and home appliances, engineers will be able to design endless apps to make things work more efficiently, saving energy and water while preventing equipment failure. That’s the essential promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) era. Thanks to the burgeoning IoT economy, we’re on the verge of having self-driving cars and appliances that tell us that their parts are about to fail.
But right now, that bright future looks a little dim. Security is paramount, and if manufacturers don’t take steps to assure the public that their devices are secure, that revolution will be delayed.
Perhaps because IoT devices are to date opaque — after all, there’s no interface for a lightbulb with sensors embedded in it — consumers haven’t been overly concerned about safety issues. Since this is still a relatively new industry, things like price and convenience have taken priority. We are in a type of technology limbo where we are learning that securing the data collected by these devices is essential, yet too few manufacturers have implemented robust data security protections for these devices.
But it will take just a few high-profile hacks to change that. Say, for example, all of the traffic lights in a big city suddenly went red at the same time and stayed that way. Or all of the lightbulbs linked to a given system went on in the middle of the night. An event like that would be enough to potentially scare people away from the IoT.
The Internet of everything is sweeping the nation. Whether we’re talking about your home, your life, or the way lighting is controlled on your favorite TV show.
According to Paul Goldhammer, a dimmer board operator on a sitcom filming at CBS Studios, there’s an app that essentially allows him to be in two places at once. iRFR, a product of Electronic Theatre Controls (“ETC”), gives lighting technicians like Goldhammer a tool to perform much of their work from a smartphone or tablet, taking them out of the control booth so they can remedy other challenges on the fly, saving in production time and multiple takes.
What makes iRFR even more impressive is that ETC gives proceeds from the purchase of the app to a healthcare nonprofit called Behind the Scenes, which provides financial support to entertainment technology industry professionals when they are ill or injured.
From our perspective, iRFR fits into the broad category of smart home (or smart life, more appropriately) products. This was a red hot category at CES this year. We learned a lot about the smart refrigerator at the show, and over the last number of months, we’ve seen a proliferation of exciting innovation in this space. One particularly noteworthy technology I’ve recently heard about provides the ability to check into your hotel room and unlock the door without stopping at the front desk. I’ve also seen a demo for a power management system that allows people to turn on or off their appliances and lights using a simple app in order to save time, energy, money and the environment.
Without further ado, let’s shine a light on Paul Goldhammer and his mobile app.