In an e-mail interaction, Mike Muller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of ARM, explains how wearable technology will change our lives and what are the challenges this poses.
G&G: Is wearable technology going to be an integral part of the Internet of Things?
Muller: Wearable technology is going to play a key role in taking the Internet of Things (IoT) to the next level. For consumers, wearable technology will be all about creating highly personalised experiences that enhance day-to-day leisure, work, convenience and health. These elements have become known as 'the quantified self', which is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on many aspects of a person's daily life. This technology encompasses self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors and wearable computing as exemplified by ARM-based products such as the Nike+ Fuel Band.
G&G: Will this mean we will control devices remotely from other devices on our bodies?
Muller: Yes, that is where the world is heading. The IoT will enable devices to be joined, anywhere, anytime. The challenge is to make this new world work as easily and as seamlessly for the user, as for web pages to link to devices today. ARM is helping its ecosystem of partners to make this new world possible; our low power, high performance technology can be found in everything from tiny sensors and mobile products through to network infrastructure, servers and data centers.
G&G: Most wearable devices now generate a lot of data about the user. How safe is this data? How important is it for the person to own this data and not the equipment manufacturers?
Muller: My answer to that is 'how much will people care about sharing or tracking data?' Today, search engines can work out where you live, what you like, what your interests are, and sell this data to advertisers. Some people are relaxed about this at present. There are privacy settings to avoid this kind of sharing, but how many people bother to adjust them? Perhaps not very many. Today, your communications can be scanned to help target advertising; social media sites can use image recognition technology to send relevant advertising to cat owners, and many people seem comfortable with this situation.
A key building block of the IoT is trust. This includes generating trusted data from people and their devices and environments. Getting valuable information and insights from such data can enable new products and services. Trust needs to be built in for both businesses and for users.
For example, your insurance company will want to be sure that it's your car that is being monitored, and so it needs to trust the data it is receiving. In turn, you want to be sure this data is being provided, securely to someone you trust. ARM is helping individuals and businesses protect their devices and data with its TrustZone technology, which enables services such as secure payment and digital rights management (DRM).
G&G: How do you think this data can be misused? How can we protect against this?
Muller: The IoT will require layers of standardisation that enable applications to share data in a trusted, secure way with only those services you have authorised. The important thing is that the user will not know, or even care, that such layers are there. It is the responsibility of the technology industry to make the Internet scale up to enable the many billions of forthcoming devices to be connected. More work still needs to be done to make this sharing as easy and as seamless as using the Internet is today.
The crux of the Internet of Things is how to join all these devices together in a network with the trusted sharing of that little data to enable big data services. ARM is helping lead the change and set standards together with key industry bodies such as the Weightless and Linaro associations.
G&G: Do you think wearable technology has the potential to change the way we use technology? Are interfaces going to be dead soon?
Muller: Wearable technology certainly has the potential to introduce consumers to some of the benefits and exciting possibilities of the IoT. The future of the IoT will be realised when all of today's devices, and devices not even conceived of today, are connected and sharing trusted data.
The Internet of Things is an enabler. It will be driven by whoever has the energy and the best solutions. It will have many facets. Like the Internet, it is not one thing. Wearables will also disrupt app development. While fitness apps started the trend, it is set to branch out to cover other life and social functions.
Interfaces continue to play an important part in this ecosystem - but the best ideas will undoubtedly drive some interesting new developments here too and even redefine what an interface actually is ARM is helping its partners to rethink what is possible and we are living in a very exciting time for technology.