Smartphone vs tablet vs phablet vs ???

I recently traded in my iPad for a Nexus 9. It has made me look at the phone/tablet thing a bit differently.

When I had an Android phone and an iPad, they felt like very different devices, each with a different role. But now that my tablet and phone work the same, and seamlessly share information, they don’t seem so different anymore. For example, if I make a note on google keep, it instantly shows up on the other device.

The only real difference is the size of the screen, and that the tablet can’t make phone calls or send texts. (Actually that’s not really true as you can make free calls over WiFi using google hangouts.)

That’s why phablets are growing in popularity. For those who can put up with carrying around a larger device, they are the best of both worlds. I want a phone I can put in my pocket though, and phablets are too big for my taste.

So what we really need is a modest sized phone with a screen that appears to be several times the size of the phone. Or better still, are we that far off from a full-fledged computer the size of a smartphone with a holographic display the size of a monitor, and a virtual keyboard? Would that be a complet? – a comphone?

Cross posted to Slaw

elegal blog marks 10th anniversary

November 16, 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of this blog – over 1500 posts since November 16, 2004.

To put that in perspective, twitter was launched in March 2006,  Facebook didn’t open to non-college students until September 2006, Linkedin was launched in May 2003, and Pinterest was launched in March 2010.

In 2004, you could count the number of lawyers who were blogging in Canada on one hand.  The frequency of posting has slowed over the years given the rise of other social media, but for anything of substance or of enduring value, a blog post reigns supreme.

We have changed the look of the blog a couple of times. An image of what it looked like in 2006 (courtesy of the Wayback Machine) is below.  That was a typical design at the time – before the trend to simpler, cleaner designs.

2006 image

Internet of Things and Big Data raise big legal issues

The internet of things and big data are separate but related hot topics. As is often the case with new technology, the definitions are fluid, the potential is unclear, and they pose challenges to legal issues.  All of these will develop over time.

Take privacy, for example.  The basic concept of big data is that huge amounts of data are collected and mined for useful information.  That flies in the face of privacy principles that no more personal info than the task at hand needs should be collected, and that it shouldn’t be kept for longer than the task at hand requires.  Both of these concepts can lead to personal info being created, while privacy laws generally focus on the concept of personal info being collected.

Another legal issue is ownership of information, and who gets to control and use it.  If no one owns a selfie taken by a monkey, then who owns information created by your car?

If anyone is interested in taking a deeper dive into these legal issues, I’ve written a bit about it here and here, and here are some recent articles others have written:

The ‘Internet of Things’ – 10 Data Protection and Privacy Challenges

Big Data, Big Privacy Issues

The Internet of Things Comes with the Legal Things

CASL software provisions & CRTC interpretation

In addition to the anti spam provisions of CASL, it contains provisions against malware starting in January 2015. It imposes disclosure and consent requirements for software providers in certain situations.

Unfortunately, those provisions are perhaps more ill-advised and unclear than the anti-spam provisions.  They have the potential to make life difficult for software companies, create additional record keeping responsibilities where none are needed, and could even hurt Canadian consumers if foreign software developers simply don’t sell their products in Canada to avoid compliance.

The IT law bar is collectively scratching their heads trying to understand what the provisions mean in practice.

When I last mentioned this, the CRTC was collecting questions to help them frame their guidance on the sections.

The CRTC will reveal their interpretation thoughts in an IT.Can webinar on November 11.

Cross posted to Slaw

Carmi Levy’s 7 tech trends

I was at a presentation this morning by tech guru Carmi Levy who talked about 7 tech trends.  If you watch national news broadcasts you will have seen Carmi.

1. Cloud.  It aligns spend with need, and you can spend less time managing your infrastructure.

2. Mobile.  More smart phones were sold last year than feature phones.  Facebook revenue from mobile is more than 50% now.  Just 3 years ago was zero.  25% of Facebook users are mobile only.  This trend is similar for other providers – mobile is rapidly becoming a prime way to connect.  Businesses need to address the mobile market.   Some businesses are not even bothering with web sites because their customers are just using social media and apps.

3.  Social Media.  Social media is today’s town square.  It is changing the way we consume content and works well local as well as global.  London’s #Ldnont hash tag is an example of an effective local tool.

4.  Apps.  The real action is mobile.  Apps can be a meaningful way to connect.   In some cases they are becoming as important as a web site.  Apps vs responsive web is controversial.   Apps can give richer experience, but responsive can be simpler to do and is platform agnostic.

5.  Gaming.  Casual gaming is the fastest growing game segment. Ties in to the mobile trend.

6.  Ecommerce.   We are seeing a revolution at summer festivals in the park.  Festival vendors used to use cash only.  Now vendors increasingly use mobile payment options such as Square.  The tech allows the smallest of small business to do this easily and cheaply.

7.  Hyperlocal.  London’s Hacker studios is an example of a startup hub where users pay a subscription for space including mentoring and support.

In general, Carmi says tech is an investment not a cost.  It is a marketing enabler if it is done right.  It is a constant adaptive process, and has to be part of business culture in general – not just delegated to a particular department.  Digital competency is something we become not something we build.

Cross posted to Slaw

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

Office for iPad – there’s a catch

Microsoft released office for iPad last week. They have promised to release Office for Android soon as well.

The good news is that it is free to download. The bad news is that it can only be used as a reader. If you want to create or edit documents, you need an Office 365 account. And if you have a personal Office 365 account, the terms don’t let you use it for commercial purposes.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based service that is purchased for an annual fee.

Even if your office has one of the many flavours of Microsoft corporate licenses, you probably don’t have Office 365 access. That means that to use iPad or Android Office, there is a significant extra cost.

Frankly, while a usable Office on a tablet would be marvelous to have, the price is far too high.

Microsoft has been getting some flak over this. Hopefully they will come up with an alternate way of giving access to those of us who already use Office.

In the meantime, free alternatives such as Google’s Quickoffice work well enough.

[cross-posted on Slaw]

Tech trends for 2014

For the London Free Press – January 5, 2014 – Read this at lfpress.com

It was announced in December that the Canadian Anti-Spam legislation (sometimes called CASL) will be in force July 1, 2014.

The legislation is complex, and because of its extremely broad definition of spam, will be a compliance nightmare for many businesses and charities. Many of us routinely send seemingly innocuous emails that will be considered spam. The time and effort required to comply will be significant. Penalties for violating the act are severe, so it’s not something that can be ignored.

Technology that becomes part of us is a long way off, but it’s inevitable. For now, smart watches and Google Glass are examples of wearable computing that will become more common. Wearable computers will be interfaces to our smartphones, monitor our activities, fitness and health, and act as cameras and gps guides.

The latest gaming consoles (Xbox and PS4) do far more than just play games. They include smart TV functions and access to entertainment services such as Netflix. Watch for these to become the central entertainment and communications device for many people.

Courts are starting to understand just how personal our electronic devices — ranging from computers to smartphones — are, and how invasive it is for others to look at them. They can be a window to personal information such as email, banking details, our location and health. Looking at one can be as invasive as searching our home.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released a decision saying that a warrant to search a house does not give the right to search the contents of a computer found in the house unless it specifically mentions the computer.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether police can search someone’s cellphone when they arrest them. The Ontario court of Appeal said it could be searched if the phone is unlocked, but not if it was locked by a password. Given current and future technologies that give us access to our phones, such as fingerprint readers, facial recognition and heartbeat recognition, that distinction may not be as simple as it seems.

It would not be surprising to see a decision that requires a warrant to look at any smartphone regardless if it is locked. While the locked vs unlocked theory does follow a certain logic, it can be argued that it is like saying police require a warrant to enter a locked house, but not an unlocked one.

The very tools that we use to work and interact with others also make it easier to watch and track us. The NSA / Snowden revelations will continue, along with continued attempts by governments to increase their ability to surveil and get information about us without warrants.

There’s a great fear that we are already in a surveillance society, let alone be headed to one. Many service providers and privacy advocates will continue to push back at that, such as by implementing increased encryption and more robust security.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

It’s about time

Today’s Slaw post

Lawyers tend to think of time in units of .1 hour.

But that is eons compared to some other time measurements.

If you are having trouble getting your head around the concept and speed of quantum computing that Simon wrote about yesterday, consider time metrics for tech we currently have.

Peter Higgs and Francois Englert recently won the Nobel Prize for physics for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle that explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.  The actual existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland – a significant achievement on many levels, including the fact that the Higgs boson only has a life in the accelerator of about 1.6×10^−22 or  0.00000000000000000000016 seconds.

Even everyday electronics work in amazingly small increments of time.

Current computer chips run at speeds of up to about 4 Ghz, meaning that they perform 4×10^9 or 4000000000 processing cycles per second – and that’s for each of the multiple cores they have.

GPS relies on satellites keeping time to an accuracy of about 14 nanoseconds or  1.4×10^-8 or 0.000000014 seconds. To put that in perspective, light travels about one foot in a nanosecond.

3D printer revolution

Today’s Slaw post:

3D printing has become a popular topic lately.  While 3D printers that print objects similar to how ink jet printers print words have been around for many years, the cost has come down dramatically, and will continue to come down. 

3-D printers are a disruptive technology, and as with any disruptive technology, the law will have to react to issues that come with it.  Possible issues include intellectual property, product liability, and use for criminal purposes.

There has been a lot of negative press lately about using 3D printing to create plastic guns.  To me that says more about the US gun culture than 3D printing.  Like most technologies, 3D printers can be used for good and evil.  And like most new technologies, it will take a while for the real uses to emerge.

Home 3D printers are now available, but we are a long way from having one in every house.  They are becoming accessible though – the office supply chain Staples recently announced it will provide 3-D printing services at its stores in Belgium and the Netherlands. Here are some examples of what a basic 3D printer can do.

3D printers have been a boon to engineers and architects, who have used rapid prototyping techniques for many years.  This article talks about how Ford uses 3D printing to create prototype metal parts such as transmission parts and brake rotors.

3D printing is being used to manufacture parts with complex shapes.   This new more fuel efficient jet engine uses 3D printed metal nozzles that are lighter in weight due to an advanced design producible only on 3D printers.

3D printing also has intriguing medical possibilities.  3D printed body parts – using live tissue – is a real possibility.  And it has been used to create relatively inexpensive replacement hands.  This video about the Robohand is well worth the 10 minute investment.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton 

 

Wearable computing – Legal Issues?

Today’s Slaw post

What do readers think about wearable computing?  Is it cool or creepy? Where is the technology headed? What legal or other issues might arise from it?

I’m thinking about this because I find the intersection of technology and law interesting, and I’ve been asked to speak about it this fall.  Google Glass privacy concerns is a popular topic today, especially around the issue of the ability to record and save images and video, and what might happen with all that.  In addition to Google Glass we are seeing the debut of the smartwatch.  The Pebble was a very successful kickstarter project, and there are rumours about an upcoming Apple smartwatch.  There are also fitness products such as the Fitbit and the Nike Fuelband.

Wearable computing has been around for a long time – perhaps dating back to an abacus worn around someone’s neck.  One of the first consumer electronic wearable computers was the calculator watch that first appeared in the 1970’s.

Wearable computers are however becoming more than a standalone device.  These devices are laden with sensors, connected to significant computing power, and connected to the internet.  Which raises all sorts of possibilities for the collection, storage and sharing of many kinds of data.  And not just from 1 person – but from everyone.  Combine that with the internet of things, and we also have the ability to be in constant contact with and have remote control over our stuff – such as our cars, homes, and appliances.

And how long will it be before devices get implanted to correct things like vision problems which are connected?  Or we have the medical equivalent of a “black box” that records and transmits our vital signs?

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton