Three days into MWC and the amount of times I’ve heard tech experts and mobile providers speak about the potential of connected things hasn’t waned. Beyond the showy displays of connected cars and new products, there has also been a big push from both car manufacturers and mobile providers to highlight new technologies that enable self-driving cars.
Volvo and Ericsson’s partnership is one example of this. According to Diomedes Kastanis, CTO of Software Solutions at Ericsson, the company was “taking an expansive, innovative approach to autonomous cars, treating them as Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are made smarter by our powerful, analytics-driven approach.” This is definitely the right step for both the auto brand and the wireless company because as so many speakers have said in MWC sessions this week, connectivity empowers autonomy.
On Monday afternoon, I walked into Hall Four of the massive Fira Gran venue and attended the session titled “Mobile Is Connected Living” led by some of the world’s top CEOs of consumer brands, including Ford, PayPal and Huawei. At first glance, I was inclined to think it would just be a sales-pitch type of discussion. In some senses, it was. But in other senses, it wasn’t.
Right off the bat, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said matter-of-factly: “Through Ford Smart Mobility, we plan to change the way the world moves.” While that might seem a bit prophetic and lofty, the more Fields spoke during the session, the more I could see that Ford—one of the most iconic auto brands in the world—doesn’t just want to integrate technology and connectivity into its products. It wants to be a mobility company first, and an auto brand second. I listened to him talk passionately about the value of data and analytics in real-time, and recount how data has been instrumental in the success of the company’s Ford Smart Mobility, GoDrive, GoPark and fully autonomous vehicles.
However, I’m worried that a lot of companies are rushing to deliver that autonomy without thinking through all of the risks, implications and consequences to user privacy and brand liability.
If you consider that Volvo’s connected car is able to drive for 80 miles on automatic mode and the car uses a digital key which its owner can connect to by using Bluetooth through a mobile phone application, you have to wonder if Volvo and Ericsson have thought through potential hacks and data leaks that could occur if someone—be it a malicious insider or a cybercriminal—attempts to access the driver’s digital information that’s been synced to the car. Have these companies planned for when the driver’s data would need to be erased completely when it’s time to sell the connected car?
These are the things I think about. And, I’m a bit astonished some of these multi-million dollar brands aren’t thinking about it—and not doing something about it—given how regulatory requirements to remove customer data is becoming tighter and tighter.
Pat Clawson is CEO of Blancco Technology Group, a provider of mobile device diagnostics and secure data erasure solutions.