On Cloud Computing

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On Cloud Computing

Postby CleanMe » January 5th, 2017, 5:30 pm

This post is somewhat in response to http://www.robotreviews.com/chat/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19684#p141430, but really belongs in General Chit Chat.

The advancement of smart devices & appliances provides many advantages to the consumer. However, we should keep in mind that no matter how hard we try to secure our networked communications – they likely can be breached by determined parties.

It's unlikely any one consumer would be the target of a determined hack attempt, but information we purposefully send to the 'cloud' could have many uses for governments and businesses. Currently, such information would likely be used anonymously and in-mass to help track consumer wants and needs. But not necessarily. As computing power increases, the ability to quickly sift through a vast amounts of data for one small piece of information becomes much easier. -- For instance, face recognition now allows an individual to be picked out of a crowd, or to be identified in one of millions of pictures. It's a near certainty that governments around the world have this ability now. Such data access can be used however they want - to assess consumer trends or to label you as an agitator - or worse.

And what about information that we don't knowingly and purposefully send to the cloud? With the right tools, embedded cameras and microphones can be turned on remotely and surreptitiously. How many devices do you own that have embedded microphones and cameras? Is your TV listening to you and sending that information to a far-away server? How about your phone, your laptop, or refrigerator!

And now, maybe even your vacuum cleaner. Is that ultrasonic sensor capable of sending audio signals to the cloud - even if that is not the purpose or what it was designed for? Can the camera feed be diverted so a potential robber knows the layout of your home? You can be sure that some hacker somewhere, sometime, will try it. And if he's successful, a new spy tool will appear on the web.

Most people who frequent this site know what the 'cloud' really is, but it's always useful to define it. When we send info to the cloud, we're simply sending it to a hard drive (or memory pool) on a network somewhere else in the world. (And Cloud Computing is nothing more than using computer resources at remote locations.) And all of the information we're currently sending to the cloud will probably stay on those remote networks in perpetuity. That means all of our documents, pictures, audio, and midnight Twitter rants - will remain in the hands of people we don't know, forever. And they can use it however they want. (see first paragraph)

There's another concern with cloud computing. What happens if the network connection is lost – for whatever reason? Can your smart vacuum still effectively navigate and remove dirt and dust from your floor? If not, I see that as a huuuuge disadvantage for that particular device. And if it can, then why is the cloud needed? (Except for firmware updates. That seems to be a very useful delivery system.)

As a final point – Our personal data is stored on servers/networks connected to the web quite frequently. Everyday stuff like credit card data, medical records, tax records, etc. And several times a year we read news stories about monstrous network breaches where all the data is stolen. We don't hear about the many smaller breaches. Why would we voluntarily put data anywhere on the web – where there's the potential for it to be stolen and/or miss-used?

I used to work in IT, and definitely am not anti-technology. Quite the opposite. But I do believe that when it comes to technology that has the capability to save/send personal data to parts unknown – we need to be very attentive.

No, I really am not paranoid. Nor do I believe in conspiracies, or that anyone's out to get me (or you). But I do believe we need to seriously examine the full capabilities of the smart devices we make part of our lives. As you can guess, for personal use I'm not a big proponent of cloud computing or cloud storage.
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Re: On Cloud Computing

Postby robocleaner » January 5th, 2017, 9:15 pm

CleanMe wrote:There's another concern with cloud computing. What happens if the network connection is lost – for whatever reason? Can your smart vacuum still effectively navigate and remove dirt and dust from your floor? If not, I see that as a huuuuge disadvantage for that particular device. And if it can, then why is the cloud needed?

The cloud isn't really used in that way for robotic vacuums (at least not yet). The robot vacuum is essentially autonomous, the cloud being used only to host and interact with wider IOT home processing requirements (apart from the updates as you mention, and remote control... perhaps starting a clean from your work location). It's been discussed before that for many, as a stand alone robot vacuum, much could be done at a local network level where full IOT processing isn't required. But within a decade or so, we'll probably all have some level of IOT interconnectivity between our home appliances/security etc.

The Samsung IOT SmartThings servers (which also drive the Samsung robot vacuums) are proving supremely reliable: They undergo regular updates, there's advanced text warnings, service is lost for no more that 10 minutes, and the system reboots perfectly every time. Many of the lost network connection issues reported here are (I think) either due to patchy Neato/iRobot service, or at a local network level. Certainly, Wi-Fi isn't consistent throughout my home, and to expect a roving robot to maintain a solid connection 100% of the time is IMHO unrealistic.
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