Shane Wall, HP’s Chief Technology Officer, joined a group of congressional staff today for an informative discussion on “Blended Reality: the fusion of our physical and digital worlds.”
Throughtout his presentation, Mr.Wall described how our lives will be enriched by new and improved experiences and new technology trends (such as 3D printing, immersion technology, and Internet of Things), but cautioned that these innovations will create new cybersecurity risks and other challenges.
He cited the evolution of printer technology as an example of how “dumb” devices, previously considered safe, have become very sophisticated and could now be used by hackers to infiltrate networks, steal data, and do harm.
Senator Cory Gardner (CO) introduced Mr. Wall before reflecting his surprise that, “Years ago, I was sitting in the office thinking about the printer and thinking they would be obsolete. Instead, technologies like printers, vehicles, and sprinklers are expanding in terms of their technological capabilities. These technologies are developing both in terms of how they are manufactured and how they get to the consumer.”
The Senator noted that because of these opportunities and connections driving innovation, “security is more important than ever.” New technologies create opportunities for both innovation and mischief. He cited the cost of data breaches to date at $47 Billion in the U.S. As co-founder and Co-Chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Senator Gardner promised to continue the fight for good cybersecurity policy.
In addressing the risks and challenges associated with innovation, Mr. Wall began, “Today I want to share with you where we see emerging security threats and how the landscape is fundamentally changing. HP Lab is a preeminent research facility, and one of our responsibilities is to look where we are headed in the future,” Mr. Wall continued. He cited a few Megatrends shaping our future:
It isn’t just about technology, but what is changing in society (geopolitical, cultural, etc.)
- Rapid urbanization: the move towards cities change how we define and distribute products, especially in terms of working in constrained environments
- Changing demographics: an aging population that is having fewer children and very capable in terms of technology. “Silver spenders” have more disposable income and are living longer.
- Hyper globalization: we expect the things we develop to be available locally and instantly. One big change is that people will expect that from physical products, not just digital.
Blended reality: digital and physical worlds colliding
- People, places, and things will become much more intertwined with how we communicate, design, and manufacture. The physical world and the digital world will blend to allow us to design something in the digital world, edit it, change it, colorize it, and then print it out and manufacture it in the physical world where you want the product.
HP Labs are focused on four big innovations:
- 3D Transformation: Don’t think just about printing. Over the next thirty years there will be a fundamental transformation of our manufacturing sector. The current manufacturing model is to deliver raw materials to a central manufacturing facility, use them to make a product, and then distribute finished products globally. This model will be completely changed by 3D printing. In this new paradigm, products will be designed anywhere, distributed digitally anywhere in the world, and with the press of a button created and distributed locally at the point of sale.
- Internet of Things (IoT): IoT will become the Internet of All Things eventually, connecting not just devices, but manufacturing components with built in sensors that will alert us to changes or degradation of machines and materials before they can break. The trend will demand a higher expectation for security.
- Microfluidics: Microfluidic technology will revolutionize the healthcare industry with simple, inexpensive, effective, and ubiquitous miniature diagnostic devices.
- Hyper-mobility: Looking at wearables that are on the body and eventually inside the body.
To be sure, security is key to the success of these innovations. Mr. Wall suggested we use the previously listed megatrends as a backdrop to understanding that growing threats demand higher level of security and privacy. He went on to discuss the evolution of malware and the “anatomy of a modern attack.”
Healthy Computer → user receives email → user lured to malicious site (social engineering is used to design specialized message) → device infected with malware → user credentials stolen → hacker has access to the entire network
As for the future of HP, Mr. Wall predicted innovations in 3D printing that would transform digital manufacturing, microfluidics in healthcare, and Internet of All Things. He sees a renaissance in manufacturing- one where anything the consumer wants will be printed locally, disrupting brick and mortar stores, assembly-line manufacturing, shipping, supply-chain, and even our transportation infrastructure.
The future is shaping up to be an exciting place, but there are policy implications, and to be sure, there will be an important role for Congress and government. The increase in connectivity of devices will add to the number of attack vectors, calling for greater cyber security. Furthermore, the renaissance in manufacturing brought on by 3D printing will raise issues around standards, jobs displacement, and policy matters we can’t even imagine today. Already, we anticipate 3D printing will greatly impact taxation as products are no longer being imported, but printed at the point of sale. And of course, with wearables and devices imbedded under the skin, privacy and acceptable use of the yielded data will become paramount. These are just a few areas of concern when it comes to future policy, but we have to get it right for the technology to succeed and reach its full potential. Mr. Wall ended on an optimistic note saying, “With the belief that anything is possible you can truly, fundamentally, change the world around us.”