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Archives: March 2014

Connected Cars And Privacy

computercarThese days cars are getting extremely advanced.  Your car is becoming more and more computer like by the model year, transmitting data about your driving habits to various sources.  But what are the regulations on this data, and how can you ensure your privacy in this connected age?

Cars first started to get computers in them in 1981 when the Clean Air Act required fewer emissions from cars.  Small computers would control certain engine functions and also store “trouble codes” that could allow mechanics to know what was malfunctioning inside the more complex engines and parts.  These computer systems soon multiplied to control other features of the car, such as anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and navigation and collision avoidance systems.

Newer cars will track data through “telematics devices” which are able to collect information from sensors on your car that are connected to the accelerator, brakes, GPS, seatbelts, fuel tank, AC, locks, and more.  It can then transmit this data to dealers and even accept incoming messages regarding notifications and service due-dates.

Some of these advances are very good.  For example, security systems are incredibly beefed up, reducing the risk of car theft.  Safety features like heads up displays, better cruise controls, and forward collision warnings can help avoid crashes and other accidents.  Tracking systems can tell parents where their kids have been driving and whether or not they have exceeded the speed limit.

However, some of these features raise privacy concerns.  Who can collect and use all this data?  Yes, privacy agreements could tell companies to keep it anonymous, but the data is still out there.

Another concern with the increased connectivity of cars is the risk of distracted driving.  People are driving faster than ever these days, and better cars allow for that with ease as people don’t “feel” the road as much.

What do you think of all the connectivity in modern cars?  Is it a blessing or a curse?  A wolf in sheep’s clothing?  We have definitely come a long way when it comes to our own computer security (see Steven Cahill’s site), but it seems like we are heading towards an age where we cannot escape the “grid” as it were.  What do you think of enforcing privacy restrictions for these things?  I almost don’t even like the fact that parents can track their teenagers so well.  Maybe I’m old-school.

Artificial Photosynthesis? It’s Becoming A Reality

photosynthesisA recent article in The Futurist has looked at the mounting evidence that artificial photosynthesis will soon be in our future.

In the 1800s, most people believed that only birds would ever fly. Likewise, most people today still believe that only plants can “do” photosynthesis. But we are on the verge of not only fully replicating photosynthesis, but actually improving it through nanotechnology work under way by large national projects such as Caltech and Berkeley’s Joint Center on Artificial Photosynthesis, the Solar H2 network based at Uppsala University, the Solar Fuels Initiative (SOFT) based at Northwestern University, and Dan Nocera’s work at MIT and Harvard.

Faunce, Thomas. “Powering the world with artificial photosynthesis: humans are learning to mimic plant processes for producing sustainable energy.” The Futurist May-June 2013: 6+.

What do you think about this new technology and its eventual impact on world energy sources?  The global reliance on “archived” fossil fuels like oil is fast becoming a problem, both in pollution as well as the fact that these fuel sources are going to run out eventually.

I like to think about how the world would change if we found another fuel source that was comparable to oil.  The power structure would change completely.  The “oil nations” would lose their power.

Today, is is difficult to overemphasize the relationship between our desire for oil and the conflicts in the Middle East, Indonesia, West Africa, and the area between the Caspian Sea and major oil markets.  (Rod Adams)

If the United States could find a new source of a patented technology providing energy we could reclaim our position as leading nation as it seems we have recently slipped, falling behind nations like China and such in terms of production and relevance.