On the third day of my adventures at CES 2018, an iconic, welcomed presence finally made its way to the massive tech conference. That's right, the sun decided to hit the show floor, happily illuminating the thousands of patrons who are looking to get a first look at some of the brightest minds in technology.
Oh yeah, there was also a blackout that you might have heard about. Fortunately, CES 2018 was able to keep going despite the technical difficulties that sent Twitter ablaze.
While the LVCC worked on their power problems, I continued to survey the show floors to see where privacy fit among the wide variety of different technologies on display.
Previously, I had documented my time patrolling Eureka Park in the Sands Expo and Convention Center talking to the passionate privacy startups that had set up shop. This may come as a shock, but there is in fact a second floor to the Sands, and I did in fact pay a visit to the exhibitors up there as well.
One of the companies I spoke to was Vayyar, a company that was presenting its 3D imaging sensor technology within the smart home section of the show. Vayyar's technology is powered through a chip within a device, which can be installed anywhere within a home, allowing homeowners to track anyone's movements, but ensuring anything captured by the device remains private.
I was given a display of what would happen if a hacker were to attempt to compromise any of Vayyar's devices. Anything captured by the sensors is essentially useless, as hackers would see colored shapes against a blue background. The image looks like an infrared sensor, but is simply a reflection of what Vayyar captured. It was a really cool sight to see.
Moving back to the LVCC, I made my way to the South Hall, where I spoke with members of Secure Data, who were showcasing several pieces of hardware designed to secure users' data using encryption.
Secure Data's hardware give users the ability to not only store their data, but control the ways it can be accessed. The devices can be linked to the company's platform, allowing users to remotely manage when the data can be accessed, such as allowing the information to only be accessed within a geographic location, or by remotely removing access altogether.
While the devices are connected to Secure Data's platform, the company says it never sees any of the information stored on the devices. One of the pieces of hardware has to be unlocked via a keypad. If a user fails to enter the key ten times, the data is erased from existence, and the company itself has no way of getting it back.
Secure Data Chief Operating Officer Sergey Gulyayev said the National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued an FIPS 140-2, the highest standard it can give hardware, for what it is worth. His business card also blocked against RFID scanners, which gives him first place in my own personal business card awards.
While motoring my way through the South Hall, I noticed that robotics had a very large presence, and many of those robots are aimed toward children. All of the robots collect data on their subjects in order to learn more about who they are interacting with, which means they will likely face a wave of privacy issues once they become more mainstream. You have to imagine these devices are going to give COPPA a work out.
North Hall was the next stop, where I ran into a startup named Smart Me Up, which gets a thumbs up in the naming department from me, even if I am more partial to The Rolling Stone's 1960s catalogue.
Smart Me Up's software allows cameras to identify any subject a user wants to find through autonomous learning. The technology could be used on a drone to find poachers in Africa, or to identity objects within a smart city.
The startup is yet another company saying it does not retain any of the data its product gathers. As I mentioned in my previous piece, a lot of these companies are coming out of France, and Start Me Up joins their ranks. Smart Me Up Business and Marketing Manager Solal Botbol said the company is mindful of the country's data protection authority, the CNIL, in order to ensure it does not draw the ire of the agency, while adding the company actively seeks to avoid holding data, as business is simply less stressful when the data is not in their hands.
My final stop was the Westgate, where I ran into another European company named Card_Lab. Notably, it was the only company I saw at CES where it touted its ability to assist in EU General Data Protection Regulation compliance.
The prototype card will allow users to make payments in a secure manner. The card has a fingerprint scanner that links to its user. Once the user's fingerprint is accepted, all she has to do is lightly tap the card, after which a token appears above the scanner. The user would then enter the code onto the service financial institutions would acquire from the company, and the transaction would be completed. The code can only be used a single time as an added safety precaution.
Card_Lab CEO Frank Sandelov said the company has already partnered with one bank in hopes of launching wide adoption. Customers' financial information is securely linked with the card, and Sandelov says the technology satisfies the GDPR's rules on consent via its tapping feature. He said tapping is an explicit sign of consent on the part of the user that they want to go through with the exchange. The company hopes to launch by May or June of this year, so whether the card fits in with the impending rules will be answered in short order.
I managed to catch a session at the Westgate called, "Cyber and Privacy in Connected Urban Environments," where a panel discussed the privacy and security issues surrounding the growing prevalence of automated cars and smart cities.
NIST Associate Director of Cyber-Physical Systems Innovation Sokwoo Rhee discussed the conversations he has had with local governments about the implementation of privacy and security standards within smart cities. While local governments say they wish to address privacy and security concerns, the cost of actually taking action against them has slowed down progress. An added problem comes from the fact that local governments' perspectives on these issues are fragmented in the absence of an overarching set of federal standards.
Rhee said it is time to address these issues. Privacy and security issues on a device may mean a person's information is stolen, while more dramatically, privacy and security issues in a smart city means physical systems are at risk, which means people could die. It's a harsh, but necessary reality that needs to be considered as smart cities continue to pop up around the world
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety Research Nat Beuse said at the beginning of the session it could take five days for privacy and security professionals to discuss everything the five panelists attempted to cover in 45 minutes, and I felt it rang true for my time here at CES 2018.
The conference will continue to go on as I make my way back to the depressingly frosty east coast. Even as I leave Las Vegas behind, I feel like the full five days of the conference still would not be enough to absorb all of the innovation taking place on the show floor.
Perhaps I will be back again next year, and perhaps when I return, privacy's presence will be even more pronounced, enough that five days would not even be close enough to scratch the surface.
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