The potential day-to-day impact of robotics and connected devices
With emerging technologies further developing and surging onto the market on a daily basis, the world we live in is likely to look significantly different in twenty, fifteen, ten, or even five years from now.
Having explored the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and a growing range of other increasingly powerful technologies in service of humanity in books Beyond Genuine Stupidity and The Future Reinvented, authors Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, April Koury, Alexandra Whittington, and Maria Romero highlight examples of how robotics and connected devices, in particular, could change a range of life experiences – hopefully for the better.
Autonomous Drones for Crowd Control and Border Security - Autonomous drones with AI enabled behaviour recognition and infrared capabilities could patrol border areas and other sensitive security situations when there are risks to safety and the potential for social unrest. On identification of security breaches or potential anti-social behaviour, the appropriate human or automated resources could be mobilised and deployed to counter the risk.
Rescue Drones - Drones are already available that can target individuals in need of emergency assistance, and either airlift them to safety or provide them with vital life-saving equipment. These drones will become ever more sophisticated and capable, with the ability to undertake more complex search and rescue missions and perform a growing range of medical procedures on the spot.
Droneloo - Single user droneloos could be summoned on demand—dropping into the midst of a crowd at an open-air festival, concert, public rally, or sporting event to enable those caught short to relieve themselves in privacy.
Personal Robo-Delivery - Small autonomous robots are already delivering fast food and mail—soon they could run daily errands while their owners work. As our grocery order or dry cleaning becomes ready, the robot is alerted and sets out through the town to pick up the orders from the local shops.
Robo-Mummy - Continuous monitoring of health indicators would allow your devices to order what you need to prevent you getting sick. Your devices would try to nudge your decision making towards a healthier lifestyle and what’s best for you.
Digital Twins - After collecting massive amounts of data about a person through connected devices, robots would be able to replicate this person’s behaviour and responses. In fact, your digital twin could attend a meeting for you and comment on your behalf. You twin could also capture and summarize the entire conversation including analysis of the body language and micro-facial expressions of the other participants and then report back.
Robotic Farming - Our farms may become entirely automated. Intelligent robots will plan, plant, water, weed, fertilise, and harvest entire crops at the perfect time based on a continuous feed of connected sensor information. An apple at a grocery store may never have been touched by a human hand until the moment a customer picks it from the shelf or eats what their robo-assistant has selected.
Self-Filling Vertical Farmer’s Market Bag – Smart, self-filling, self-unloading, reusable bags could communicate with smart homes and smart appliances to place new orders from a local vertical farm or supermarket. The bag would fill itself with groceries at the point of origin, be delivered via autonomous vehicle or drone, unload on arrival, and be returned empty on the next delivery run. This could save time for shoppers, support local produce, and discourage food waste.
Life Automation - Connected devices and ‘life automation’ apps will share your agenda and habits to plan the flow of your day. Music from your surround system would automatically keep playing in your headphones after you leave your home and switch to the in-car system when you get behind the wheel. The home heating system would turn on when you are ten minutes away. Food would be delivered or ready to serve minutes after you walk in the front door.
Unisex Utility Jacket - This totally safe and secure everyday fashion item would keep mobile devices connected using built-in chargers and a personal private data network. The jacket might also collect, convert, store, and distribute kinetic and heat energy from the wearer’s body to sell back to the local power grid.
AI HR - Artificial intelligence is already changing the way HR operates. Perhaps we are edging toward human-less HR with AI powered recruitment, selection, appointment, onboarding, performance monitoring, payment (employees, contractors, gig-bots), and offboarding based on automated needs and skills matching. The smart HR could also monitor us via all our devices and detect factors such as stress levels, distraction, the extent of social conversation we engage in, and when we are performing at our peak.
Many questions arise that we’d love to ask our future selves. Do robots do everything to feed us from farm to table? What do you consider ‘smart’? Do you get used to drone surveillance? How much better has life really become?
Understanding and seeing hypothetical future customers and employees as people experiencing some of the same universal human dramas that we do today, the future feels a little more relatable.
Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, April Koury, Alexandra Whittington, and Maria Romero - authors of “Beyond Genuine Stupidity and The Future Reinvented”
ICO warns of privacy concerns on the use of LFR technology
“I am deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition (LFR) technology to be used inappropriately, excessively, or even recklessly. When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner.
Denham explained that with any new technology, building public trust and confidence in the way people’s information is used is crucial so the benefits derived from the technology can be fully realised.
“It is not my role to endorse or ban a technology but, while this technology is developing and not widely deployed, we have an opportunity to ensure it does not expand without due regard for data protection,” Denham added.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will work with organisations to ensure that the use of LFR is lawful, and that a fair balance is struck between their own purposes and the interests and rights of the public. They will also engage with Government, regulators and industry, as well as international colleagues to make sure data protection and innovation can continue to work hand in hand.
What is live facial recognition?
Facial recognition is the process by which a person can be identified or recognised from a digital facial image. Cameras are used to capture these images and FRT software measures and analyses facial features to produce a biometric template. This typically enables the user to identify, authenticate or verify, or categorise individuals.
Live facial recognition (LFR) is a type of FRT that allows this process to take place automatically and in real-time. LFR is typically deployed in a similar way to traditional CCTV in that it is directed towards everyone in a particular area rather than specific individuals. It can capture the biometric data of all individuals passing within range of the camera indiscriminately, as opposed to more targeted “one-to-one” data processing. This can involve the collection of biometric data on a mass scale and there is often a lack of awareness, choice or control for the individual in this process.
Why is biometric data particularly sensitive?
Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices, or data. Biometric data extracted from a facial image can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a range of different contexts. It can also be used to estimate or infer other characteristics, such as their age, sex, gender, or ethnicity.
The security of the biometric authentication data is vitally important, even more than the security of passwords, since passwords can be easily changed if they are exposed. A fingerprint or retinal scan, however, is immutable.
The UK courts have concluded that “like fingerprints and DNA [a facial biometric template] is information of an “intrinsically private” character.” LFR can collect this data without any direct engagement with the individual. Given that LFR relies on the use of sensitive personal data, the public must have confidence that its use is lawful, fair, transparent, and meets the other standards set out in data protection legislation.