We Need Strong Values within IoT

Joe Nicholson, Managing Director, Rufilla Ltd.
9th January 2020. 

I’m a software consultant specializing in smart connected devices. I’ve been involved in the Internet of Things and M2M field since before either of those terms… since around 1999.

Throughout this time I’ve been positively evangelical about the future that IoT & M2M could bring: a Smarter world, one that would inspire us and bring us closer together.

I believed in the power of tech to change the world.  But as we move into 2020 the future with our smart tech looks less rosy… its bleaker, more dystopian.  Phones and virtual assistants make no bones about the fact that they are listening, recording, logging…  What are they logging? Not very clear.  Why are they logging? To make money selling data for targeted advertising.  But there is also a feeling that’s just the start, that this data will be used for many other purposes too.

There’s currently an ‘arms race’ between online advertising giants competing to know as much about you as intimately possible. Isn’t that just a bit creepy? This really isn’t the glorious future I imagined 20 years ago. I forgot that people can be so human (read: greedy, uncaring, money-oriented).  Even us propeller head tech guys.  Helping people and helping wider society with technology is often a strapline, but in reality it’s hardly ever a business model.

If someone started watching you and noting down your movements and actions, you’d quite rightly ask them to stop and very likely call the police.
But, if they create an IoT device that does much the same, then sell it to you as a ‘helpful gadget’ that seems to be OK!

Privacy revelations are rife, just today we have Amazon admitting employees have been snooping on private Amazon Ring doorbell footage.
I think we’re starting to let the devil cross our thresholds by signing deals in the form of opaque 60-page privacy policies.

But what can we do? We don’t want to go back to the old days.  Things really are smarter, better, simpler, easier.  Anyway, we can’t go back as the world is advancing at a tremendous pace towards this future.

We need Clear Laws
I think the only future that really works for real people (i.e. the users of this technology) is one that kicks the invasive side of smart tech into the long grass, then moves forwards with the user at the heart of everything.
• Users should know and understand clearly the data collected and why.
• Users should be able to EASILY opt out; EASILY destroy historical logged data.
We need clear laws. Companies should be audited and prosecuted harshly if evidence is found that they are ignoring these laws and misusing data.

Open Source
We need Open Source now more than ever. When software is open we can see what’s its doing. Many eyes can check the code, ensuring its clear to everyone what data is being collected and why.  I would love to see an open source mobile platform such as Tizen gain popularity.

At Rufilla, we help companies make these products and train companies in smart device techniques.
I want us to distance ourselves as far as possible from the increasingly negative side of IoT.
So, we’re writing our values as a company and will be advertising them for all to see.

I still believe in the original future, the one that gives users genuine power without the cost of surveillance.

This article also available here:

Rufilla’s Values are now available here.

Rufilla supports Yocto meta layer meta-nodejs

NodeJS is a fantastic language for developing embedded system applications.  However, support for NodeJS has been sporadic under Yocto.  The standard meta layer meta-nodejs has not had an update since March 2017.

This caused a problem for our clients, so Rufilla has forked this layer and taken on support for this open source project.

Recent updates we’ve made:

  • Recipes for NodeJS versions 10.15.2, 10.15.1, 10.12, and 8.
  • Updates to npm-base and npm-install-global classes.

Check it out on Github here

Rufilla develops Smart Hospital Bed Alarm

Rufilla have developed a smart paging system with intelligent bed supplier Montcalm Ltd.

Montcalm supply very advanced hospital beds.   These beds expect to be able to make contact with a ward nurse when a patient has a problem, using the Nurse Call system.
However, a nurse calling system isn’t always implemented within wards of UK National Health Service hospitals.

To solve this problem, Rufilla have created for Montcalm a smart paging transmitter unit to alert hospital staff.

Check out the news article here

Rufilla writes article on Yocto for New Electronics Magazine

Yocto is challenging traditional thinking and solving many longstanding issues in Embedded Linux.
Our managing director wrote this article for New Electronics magazine.

Check it out here.