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The key technology issues in 2020 are about the ‘rise of evil machines’ – yes Skynet and Terminator (cybercriminals) are lurking in the web’s murky shadows waiting to pounce and make you a slave to the machines.

Well, maybe not as James Cameron portrayed both, but the key technology issues in 2020 all come down to Internet, artificial intelligence and machine learning (Means), making easy money (Motive) and consumers ill-equipped to counter cybermasterminds (Opportunity). Regardless of whether the motive is benevolent (convenience) or malevolent (crime) it will impact everyone on the planets dreary lives.

What prompted me to ‘rant’ on the key technology issues in 2020? Well in part it was after a week of weeding through the plethora of over-hyped CES 2020 press releases all promising to make your lives easier (at a cost, of course).

And a rude awakening to find my elderly, technophobic, pensioner mum was convinced by a salesman to buy a $1000 vacuum to clean a micro-sized apartment when a $100 one would do. And she was quoted $200 extra to assemble and train her how to use it!

The key technology issues in 2020

Over complication – Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut

Since when did a vacuum need assembly and training (my mum is a formidable woman). Well, since technology started driving everything. Twelve different accessories, three motorised heads, battery swap, power levels, charging stand, app… Mum would have been happy with a simple Hoover!

key technology issues in 2020

Do we need the complexity of Bluetooth Toothbrushes, smart toilets, LED showers, smart mirrors, intelligent hair dryers, smart shoe racks, talking fridges, smart washing machines, smart wearables, voice control…? And have you noticed that there is a substantial price premium for a smart device over a dumb one – often hundreds of dollars for no more real amenity?

It is getting to the stage that dumb appliances are on the way out. CES pundits say that within a couple of years almost all new appliances will require Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri’s dulcet tones to operate.

But here is the kicker. Mum does not have internet/email (as a lot of seniors don’t have or can’t afford), and the cryptic, microscopic prinT, paper-saving setup guide continually refers to the website for instructional videos. And to register your two-year warranty, you must install the smartphone app and set up an on-line account (used for marketing purposes). Otherwise, you get one year!

Rule one: No manufacturer should discriminate against those without internet access or smartphone use – devices must be able to operate without it.

I had to laugh at a $100 set of Bluetooth scales that monitor your weight.

You can get a perfectly good dumb digital set for $10 from a dollar shop and conveniently ignore the results!

These scales are made in China (as most tech is) by an obscure company. The app asks for name, email, age/birthday, gender, height, waist, chest/bust, body shape, address (it actually uses smartphone location anyway, or it will not work), phone, and then proceeds to ask a series of highly personal questions about your lifestyle in the guise of providing you with individual results that will positively impact your health.

key technology issues in 2020
Image only intended to represent the plethora of IoT based BT scales – not a specific brand

But here is the kicker – and I will summarise

  • You can’t refuse to answer any question, or it will not work.
  • You can’t opt-out of marketing emails or it will not work
  • If you use Facebook or similar sign in (as it valiantly tries to force you to do), it gains access to you your name, birth date, picture, and any other details you may have on your Facebook profile.
  • There is no Australian Privacy or European GDPR (General Data Protection) or other countries compliance statement nor does it comply with data access or deletion principals
  • There is no privacy statement meaning it can do whatever it wants with your data
  • And Norton AV tracks the server to China

Now obviously this is not from a reputable company like Fitbit, Garmin or Withing’s. But it was from a reputable chain store. Obviously, this Christmas gift will go back ASAP.

But what if my mum had bought it? An expensive paperweight at best.

Rule two: Assume privacy is down the toilet with almost all smart devices

key technology issues in 2020

We only want to help you find what you don’t know you need!

I am getting heartily tired of laser-focused advertising whenever I search on Google or Bing. So much so that I use Firefox and an ad blocker – Ghostery – for a little peace. But more and more websites now refuse to load if you use an adblocker, VPN or other privacy tools. Most offer you a single click to proceed (turning off the ad-blocker for good).

Pre-Xmas, in a moment of desperation, I went to a “Best of” website (that Ghostery said had 23 trackers) and it disabled them all. But the site would not load or later click through to the Amazon merchant page until I allowed Amazon Associates and Alexa metrics trackers.