Boise State on Business by Gundars Kaupins: The bike that knew too much: New tech can tell on you

GUNDARS KAUPINS. professor of management, College of Business and Economics at Boise State UniversityJune 11, 2013 

Gundars Kaupins

Jill's bike monitored her heart rate as she raced up to Castle Rock in the Boise Foothills. The bike told her that her back tire was a bit low. It also tracked her speed, location, the force she was using to pedal and the height of her seat. The bicycle warned her not to turn right at the fork in the road because of extremely muddy conditions.

Many websites received Jill's bicycle data. Jill's bicycle racing club and fitness center tracked her health and training progress. The retailer where she got the bike tracks her activity to give her new apps and races that would be interesting, alerts her to needed repairs on her bike and to learn how this valued customer is using the product. Jill's health insurance company tracks her activity and health in order to increase the chance that her rates will go down. Jill's boss finds out that she is biking when she really should be at the meeting at 3 p.m.

Has "bicycle networking" gone too far? Privacy is greatly reduced when even your employer can find out how much you ride your bike and where you are.

Bicycle networking is part of the new wave of computer innovation involving "social machines." They are objects in your house that you use every day that can share data about your behavior on the Internet.

Your refrigerator can tell your doctor, employer, friends, local store and yourself what food you have inside, how many calories have been removed two days ago and what needs to be purchased at the store tomorrow. Your blender can inform your social network that you have included yogurt, strawberries and that secret ingredient for only 100 calories per serving. Your toothbrush can alert your dentist that you brushed for two minutes this morning but forgot to brush your tongue. Your chair or couch can tell you and your doctor that you have been sitting on it for too long. It will sound an alarm after 45 minutes to make sure you are off of it for at least five minutes.

The computers of the future will not only take on more shapes but will be a part of more everyday objects. They will provide enormous business opportunities for innovative computer companies. They will provide a vast amount of new data about ourselves that can be used to our advantage, shared with others to enhance friendships or business, or exploited by others.

The exploitation can happen because our privacy laws are not quite ready to handle the new technology. Remember Jill's bike? Her boss finds out that her bike is going up Castle Rock at 3 p.m. when she should be at a meeting. Jill is not on her bike. Her friend Jack really took the bike while Jill left an email to her boss stating that she will be late to the 3 p.m. meeting because an earlier meeting was running late. The boss makes a false assumption that Jill is not at work.

Jill was going to get the promotion but did not because somehow her boss got information about Jill's terrible heart rate, blood pressure, calories she gets from the fridge, the secret ingredient she adds in her blender, her bad brushing habits and the enormous time she sits on the couch from the Internet.


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