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Blog 1: The Safety of the Internet

This is the post excerpt.

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The introduction and first two chapters of Tubes by Andrew Blum emphasize a point that many people ignore; that the internet does not work by some magical way to transmit data through the air, but rather through physical wiring that extends to multiple different locations across the planet.

Blum begins his journey of discovering the internet in its physical sense after learning that his internet at home can be interrupted by a squirrel gnawing on his cords at his switch box. He then witnesses the printing of a network map of the world’s wiring connections as well as traffic through each pathway. This then brings him to looking at the Milwaukee municipal data network’s access point, where information was connected and dispersed between other access points and the IP addresses that were using that network. Blum then goes on to talk about how the internet started, primarily as a U.S. Government defense project which was quite limited in the number of connected computers at first. However, as more and more processes within the system became standardized including networks and faster data transfer, more and more people began using the internet.

I already knew this to a large extent because my father used to work for Sprint as an engineer. He actually helped approve the construction plans to the City of Orlando to install fiber optic wiring through the city. He explained that the internet works very similarly to the phone networks, largely because they originally used the phone networks to transmit data. What I don’t fully understand is why that concept doesn’t seem to reach the majority of people when one asks them about how the internet works. Most people could tell you roughly how a phone network operates, so I don’t quite understand the reason for this lack of knowledge.

This led me to realize something that perhaps explains why this concept is not readily explained. Blum’s visit to the access point brings up the response by his guide: “All this talk of Homeland Security, but look at what someone could do in here with a chainsaw”(p.23). This statement is rather haunting when one considers how valuable these access points are. Blum talks about how MAE-East was at one point where the majority of internet traffic passed through, which was made even worse by the fact that more companies began locating their servers at the site in Virginia to improve speed. This site was left unguarded and even though the internet has become more decentralized since then, a major attack on one of these larger access points like could be devastating to the economy, especially with more of our economy dependent on internet operations. Although not well known by many, these sites are also public knowledge and letting many people aware of precisely where they are might not be the best idea in the interest of a system the was designed for national security.

440px-newnsfnetarchitecture

Blog 18: The Future of Self-Tracking

The fifth and sixth chapters of Self-Tracking by Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus show an interesting glimpse into the future of self tracking, its future implementations, and possible future advances of self tracking in the healthcare industry. There are so many questions surrounding the future of self tracking that many current industries such as healthcare have difficulty keeping up with the potential uses of self tracking technology in this field.

First of all, it appears self tracking has a way to go in the healthcare industry for it to be seriously recognized. For example, the authors mention an example of when the FDA decided to remove a health tracking app called uChek because it failed to meet certain regulatory criteria (p. 157). The current healthcare industry is awash with issues ranging from monopolized intellectual property to over zealous regulations that are put in place to prevent new competition from competing with established brands in the field. Another example of this extant was talked about by the authors in the case of Hugo Campos who had to legally fight for access to data collected by his own defibrillator. The company claimed that they owned the data collected because it was their machine, even though it was his body the data was being collected from (p. 169). On a hopeful note however, the authors also described how this future with self tracking could help individuals become more aware of their physicality and therefore be more productive in how they deal with such issues. But what does this look like in practice? Will people be able to fully understand what to do with this data? Perhaps they would misread the data and not pick up on signs that perhaps a professional doctor may see.

This also brings us back once again to the issue of privacy within the self tracking discussion. Especially when it comes to updating laws regarding the legality of sharing such data, much of the current laws are woefully out of date. It appears that much of the new technologies that will impact our future world such as the Internet of Things and self tracking have yet to be fully incorporated into the rule books. This is already one of the primary roadblocks to the expansion of self driving cars as there is issues regarding at fault claims for insurance purposes in the hypothetical case that two self driving cars are involved in an accident (Birnbaum, 1). But what would cause the current status quo of incredible tight control of the healthcare industry to change its attitude to self tracking? Would it be a promising investment opportunity for these companies to allow this industry to take off? What will this look like in the future?

defibrillator

 

Birnbaum, Seth. “The Insurance Impact of Self-driving Cars and Shared mobility.” TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

Neff, Gina, and Dawn Nafus. Self-Tracking. Cambridge: MIT, 2016. Print.

Blog 17: What Does Tracking Do?

In the third and fourth chapters of Self-Tracking, Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus explore more into the community of people who self track, whether assisted by technology or not, and the reasoning behind what they do and some of the benefits they gain from these activities. They also discussed how tracking works in businesses and industries and how many industries, especially bio medicine. These industries are also investing in tracking technologies and developing products to sell to their customers.

The measuring of data, as was somewhat discussed previously, is very fascinating when one looks into how this information is helpful. The authors described how participants will sometimes alter the values to a different scale, or simply create a measuring system with no direct meaning, in order to motivate themselves in their tracking efforts (Neff & Nafus, 74). This, again, plays into the idea that tracking is primarily done in order to break undesirable habits or create new desirable habits. One of the more interesting ideas that was brought up was the ability for some practitioners to actually diagnose physical issues that were previously not understood or outright dismissed by their doctors. This idea was labled as ‘Debugging’ by the authors and an example of this in practice is certainly apparent in Anne Wright’s case of self diagnoses of her diet issues (Neff & Nafus, 85). Many issues as to why doctors generally dismiss these kinds of cases is that doctors are somewhat programmed to follow hard, quantifiable data in order to make assessments on one’s physical state. But why do doctors not accept any information, especially if it is documented or recorded, by a patient even if it may not be quantifiable information? Afterall, is this not how doctors in the past would come up with a diagnosis?

The authors also brought up another interesting point about self tracking, and that is using sensors and equipment to enhance a person’s sense of certain bodily functions. This was referenced to as ‘exosensing’ and examples included instances of a man understanding his glucose levels and people being able to orient themselves North without the use of technology after they became accustomed to knowing how they felt at the time (Neff & Nafus, 77-78).  I find this concept fascinating as this reminds me of another phenomenon called the ‘Nocebo Effect’. This idea works by a person being convinced that a certain phenomenon is happening to them by something with authority, and said person will experience this real phenomenon even if they are not exposed to it in actuality. For example, this idea originated in the pharmaceutical industry when during clinical trials, some patients were given the drug and others were given a fake drug. Not only did the people with the drug experience side effect issues, but those who were not given the drug also reported experiencing the same issues even though they were not actually taking the drug (CGP Grey, 1). Are these people who are claiming to have ‘exosenses’ really experiencing this or is this related to the ‘Nocebo Effect’ and their minds are playing tricks on them?

CGP Grey. “This Video Will Hurt.” YouTube. YouTube, 23 December 2013. Web. 19 April 2017.

Neff, Gina, and Dawn Nafus. Self-Tracking. Cambridge: MIT, 2016. Print.

Blog 16: The Business of Self Tracking

In the first two chapters of Self-Tracking, Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus explore the interesting social phenomenon of self tracking or recording and how this impacts people’s daily lives. The authors help answer what self tracking is and how its definition varies under certain circumstances.

Self tracking, while seriously enhanced with modern technology, is not a new concept if we are not talking in the strict sense of digital self tracking. Journaling, as pointed out by Neff and Nafus, has been around for centuries and is a way for people to manually collect data and to act or reflect on said data with what he/she is trying to accomplish. What is interesting is how self tracking relates to self discovery and operates under one the underlying principles of Western scientific thinking. That is, learning through observation. Neff and Nafus also talk about how these newer self tracking technologies assist in people forming a quantified self, which is how a person can be assessed through a collection of data that exists about he/she. Even though this concept is explained, and the people that exemplify this concept are notorious for questioning experts and want to interject their own data into professional analysis, is this a state that people should be in? The authors do not seem to make a specific push towards this idea, even though they also state that this behavior is largely associated with cultural values of self improvisation (p. 19).

This concept of self tracking turns into, in many ways, self discovery. This new age may also significantly help professionals improve their own practices with their patients by allowing their patients to record data on their own time. However, in a previous blog, I talked about the future of sensory data technology and how that may revolutionize the healthcare industry in that regard. So with the technology to use sensory data improving rapidly, is this trend of self recording data likely to become part of the future of medicine and health or will automation take over this field?

self-tracking

Neff, Gina, and Dawn Nafus. Self-Tracking. Cambridge: MIT, 2016. Print.

Blog 15: An Optimistic Future

The seventh and final chapter of Greengard’s The Internet of Things ponders on the future of the IOT from Pew Research Center polls on the subject with industry leaders. Greengard then creates a day in the life type of story of a family not too far off in the future that is surrounded by IOT technology, encompassing nearly every action of their daily routine.

A lot of ideal uses for the IOT would be in the fields of transportation and medicine, both of which Greengard discusses at the beginning of this chapter. Our current situation sees nearly 1 million traffic fatalities every year across the world and incidents of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes increasing at ever increasing rates. The IOT will likely reduce issues in both of those fields by relaying improving communication to the point that it can save lives in both contexts. What’s more is that the IOT, as discussed in earlier blogs, has the potential to streamline efficiency and generate trillions of dollars in revenue across multiple industries (Greengard, 169). However, there is still issues with how that will be implemented in the future. For example, Greengard previously talked about how there would be infrastructure needed to support the IOT, but would this communications network using primarily RFID tags run off of the current internet infrastructure? If not, it would likely be incredibly expensive, especially for developing countries, to use the IOT due to the complexity of using such a network.

Another question that arises is that of Greengard’s idea for a day in the life scenario. Almost immediately, he describes the person getting up due to sensors activating an alert to their skin and followed by the shower presetting the water temperature to the user’s preference (Greengard, 180). I do not realistically see this scenario playing out for probably several decades for several reasons. Firstly, why would people need smart pajamas when alarm clocks work perfectly fine at waking people up? And don’t people know how to set the water temperature correctly in their own home? Why would they need a smart shower for that? I could realistically see this type of technology in newly built homes, but even if there was technology available to convert older systems, I imagine doing these conversions would be fairly expensive depending on device. The reality is that updating such infrastructure would require individuals to invest their own capital into these technologies. So would we see a wide scale adoption of IOT technology in the coming years?

Overall, the point that Greengard makes in this book is that the future under the IOT will inevitably arrive at some point in the future, and while some of the issues surrounding its use will likely become a reality as well, the ultimate use of the IOT will likely become more beneficial than not.

IOT

Greengard, Samuel. The Internet of Things. Chaparral: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015. Print.

Blog 14: The Challenges of the IOT

The fifth and sixth chapters of Greengard’s offer a more solemn view of how the IOT would conceivably work in the future, along with the issues in implementing such a system and some of the potential consequences in which that system would have. With the previous chapters of this book largely covering more ideal circumstances in which the IOT could operate in, these chapters explain just how difficult this would be to implement as far as standardization of networks and some potential safety issues that could arise from such a system of machines.

One of the greatest challenges for the IOT, according to Greengard, is that of building an infrastructure to support such a diverse level of machines. The main issue that is limiting the IOT is lack of sensory data for a majority of machines that would need to be connected to the IOT to make the system work efficiently. For many years, that barrier was price. Afterall, many companies do not have particularly high profit margins to redistribute costs towards outfitting their machines with sensors. However, Greengard has noted that prices for these sensors have begun to drop dramatically to the point that some sensor prices have been decimated in only a few years (Greengard, 123). While this trend may be reversed, another issue that haunts the IOT is that of having some sort of communication infrastructure to allow machines to communicate with one another in the first place. Greengard notes that AT&T, IBM, Cisco Systems, GE, Intel, and the federal government have all stated their support towards working on an initiative to create this system for the IOT. But what would such a system look like and how would it vary from current internet infrastructure?

Another issue that has to be dealt with as far as the IOT is reliability of such a system and how people like us would deal with interacting with the IOT. For example, one of the implementations of the IOT could be in the world of automotives. If cars had the ability to communicate with one another, then traffic efficiency could be greatly increased because you could have cars riding bumper to bumper with very low possibilities of collision because these cars will no exactly what the others ahead and behind it are doing. Yet, Greengard also cites that this system still has the possibility to fail, such as when a train crash in Washington D.C. was caused by an error in the computer and the conductor did not know what to do to stop the train properly (Greengard, 138). This also brings up the question of whether the IOT will make humans as a whole more stupid because generally common tasks will no longer needed to be performed by us. Will future generations struggle to innovate if their needs are constantly met by machines without having to put in their own effort?

automated car

Google’s self driving car prototype

Greengard, Samuel. The Internet of Things. Chaparral: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015. Print.

Blog 13: The Wonders of the IoT

The third and fourth chapters of Greengard’s The Internet of Things delves into the possibilities of how the IoT would work in the future and how these innovations in connecting industrial equipment together, which he calls the ‘Industrial Internet’. These chapters also explore how we have already seen much change in how such a phenomenon impacts our daily lives, much less that of government and industry.

Firstly, Greengard talks about how the connected world that will soon be upon us. This is the fourth industrial revolution, which is centered around connectivity and harnessing ‘Big Data’. Greengard claims that there is already a fair amount of automation and data collection present in the industrial realm, but this could be further expanded upon. For instance, he talks about how many companies utilize RFID sensors for truck fleets and pallets to improve distribution time management (Greengard, 62). What the solution seems to be is to have more items to have sensors in industrial settings, which ideally, would allow a better accumulation of data to occur, which could then be used to improve efficiency. This level of automation also would seem to replace the need for many current laborers in the future who already perform some of these tasks. What will the business world look like in the future due to this? I like this video that explains what this may look like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

This is an incredibly intriguing field to explore. However, Greengard does cover much of the nuances of how such a system would be executed. This system of making RFID tags for so many items would not necessarily be expensive, but these businesses would have to create a system for units or items to interact in that manner if this is what Greengard envisions. For example, Greengard talks about how manufacturing has already become quite automated, but this automation requires significant infrastructure to support automation like that. Even if we are talking about equipment communicating with one another over the internet, it would still require infrastructure to allow this via expanded bandwidth. How would this look like for a company like McDonald’s? They are loosely controlled through franchise operations and even their own food vendors and distributors are privately owned. How would they coordinate and provide revenue for this?

Greengard also explores how automation in our daily lives is already on the rise, which can be seen in products like Amazon’s Alexa and FitBit bands. Greengard already cites how this future of connectedness has already occurred in much of the media industry (Greengard, 87-90). I would argue that that is more of a result of improving efficiency in those fields. The change from CD’s to downloadable music is more of an example of technological progress than it is an example of the IoT.

One interesting field that Greengard discusses is the field of medicine, which could benefit greatly by improved communication. He discusses how physicians and doctors could readily keep track of a patient’s data in real time throughout the year and have a considerable amount of knowledge of his/her patient’s condition before they sit down for a check-up (if they will even need to have a check-up at all). Despite Greengard’s optimism, will this be seen in the near future given how oddly regulated the health industry is in America?

Greengard, Samuel. The Internet of Things. Chaparral: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015. Print.

Blog 12: Introduction to the Internet of Things

The first and second chapters of Samuel Greengard’s The Internet of Things showcases a understanding of how our once analog world of technology has become interdependent with one another. This phenomenon, although not entirely new, is growing at an incredible rate and will soon dictate how we interact with people and objects in the physical world.

In a sense, this new interconnectedness of previously analog devices has produced daunting revelations in our developing world. Beforehand, Greengard states that our analog technology was rather limited in its capabilities that were based on what physical features these technologies had. In our new digital era, these limitations are somewhat mitigated due to these devices having the ability to communicate with one another (Greengard, 11). This is possible due to wider use of RFID tags on many devices that did not use these previously, like packaging.

Perhaps this is a more pessimistic view of sorts, but Greengard does bring up the issues with security in such an interconnected system. For example, with our lives being more reliant on the ease of using our banking information and social data over a myriad of different online sites, the ability for just one of those sites to be compromised and have that person’s entire online identity at risk is not merely science fiction, but is something we are experiencing already. RFID tags are something that are also prone to being hacked, and Greengard even references how that can seriously inhibit growth in the medical field (Greengard, 24). If these issues persist, will we see such a readily expanded adoption of these technologies as Greengard discusses?

Another point that Greengard speaks on is how big data will revolutionize how we conduct business by making information about very specific topics easily accessible. This (ideally) would allow businesses to immediately address issues related to the business, such as analyzing product trends, and being able to quickly readjust those issues in a short amount of time. Greengard says that there will be 40 zetabytes of information existing in the world (Greengard, 44). That is an almost unfathomable amount of data to process realisitcally. Greengard goes on to talk about how certain industries such as gas exploration and engineering rely on data sets to conduct their business. However, Greengard does not give a suitable answer to how companies would readily have access to valuable information related to these fields; after all, wouldn’t an individual company have to collect its own data on gas exploration because I doubt a competitor company would make that information obtainable to them. Greengard’s utopian future sounds great, but perhaps its implementation makes less sense. How will Big Data transform how businesses operate in the future?

 

oilrig

Works Cited
Greengard, Samuel. The Internet of Things. Chaparral: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015. Print.