London's high-tech garbage cans fail the 'Privacy Smell Test', says Bellehumeur

Garbage_can,London

I read an article recently on Bloomberg (click here to read) that both fascinated, and creeped me out, at the same time. It appears that a number of ‘space-age’ garbage containers used in different parts of London do far more than just take your garbage … they also take information from your cellular phone!

The garbage cans (shown here) are quite expensive – in the tens of thousands of dollar range – and each is loaded with on-board LCD space which is a great form of advertising. What is disturbing, however, is that the devices are able to anonymously gather your MAC address, to allow it to identify which cellular provider you are using.

To be clear, this is not the first time that garbage cans have been used to provide interactivity with handhelds in close range. I have heard of a few Bluetooth-based advertising solutions that allow you to take action by sending coupons for nearby retailers/restaurants to your phone.

However, this is quite a different scenario because the mobile phone user has the option to disable/refuse the messages. In this garbage can scenario, the information was sent without their knowledge, as a way to allow providers (and likely cellular tower operators) to get a better understanding of the usage/number of devices for each carrier in a certain intersection.

Now, I don’t want to blow this too far out of proportion. The reality is that the company did not get any information about the user in any way from these cans. The information was sent in batches so, it really just reported how many Vodafone users walked by, as an example, not who the individual users were.

Bottom line

Again, no personal information was apparently obtained or stolen here, so there really was no harm. As leaders in this new market, we need to ensure that we don’t push the envelope of doing ‘what is cool’ without first factoring in the implications. And as an industry, we need to ensure that we err on the side of protecting the privacy of users, especially those who have not given permission to obtain such information. It is imperative that we are extra cautious, as there is already a lot of concern among the general public about how information is gathered through various M2M / Big Data solutions today.

The author is Larry Bellehumeur, EVP of Sales and Marketing at Novotech Technologies (www.novotech.com)
You can reach him directly by emailing larry(@)novotech.com. You can follow Novotech on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow Larry personally (@LBNovotechM2M).

 

FEATURED IoT STORIES

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, iot home automation is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more
RECENT ARTICLES

Fibocom: 5G AIoT Commercialized Products Handbook

Posted on: October 20, 2021

On September 6, 2021, Fibocom, together with China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Qualcomm, UNISOC, MediaTek and many IoT industry partners, officially launched the “5G AIoT Commercialized Products Handbook”, breaking the industry boundary with collective power and exploring new business value with technology integration. Now the English is available for the global readers.

Read more

The ultimate guide to IoT in Logistics

Posted on: October 20, 2021

Welcome to The World of Logistics! By 2030, IoT in Logistics is predicted to be worth more than $100 million. To help our logistics customers get an understanding of what they need to know to succeed with IoT, we’ve created a unique Nomadic Device guide that outlines how to achieve quick time to value. We’ll

Read more