The ‘Three Rs’ of Next Generation Tech: Rights, Rules, and Regulations

Mark Lowenstein / January 22nd, 2016

Even though there were no ‘blockbuster’ product announcements, this was the most exciting CES in some time. Between discussions and demos of drones, self-driving cars, IoT, AR/VR, and the next generation of screens, sensors and wearables, we came away with a pretty good technology roadmap for the next five years. There was some game changing stuff with potentially significant impacts on how we live and work.

In many of these areas, the technological development is moving rapidly and the platforms and ecosystems are falling into place. But I think that, over the next couple of years, the discussion will increasingly center on policy. Just like there are the “Three Rs” of education — reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic’ — so too, are there ‘three Rs’ that will have a huge impact on how some of these products and technologies are brought to market: Rights, Rules, and Regulations.

Let’s look at a few of the most exciting areas of the consumer tech landscape to see how these 3Rs apply.

TV Everywhere: It is clear the technology is there for the vision of “TV Everywhere” and/or the disruption of the traditional pay TV model, which continues to happen in increments. Apple for example, could physically and technologically execute on its vision of the future of TV tomorrow. But the hold up here is rights. Using Apple as the example, they have not been able to do in TV what they have done in music mainly because of the enormous complexity of rights issues.

Self-Driving Cars: It has become clear over the past year the technology for the self-driving car is evolving very rapidly. We are just now turning to the business, policy, and regulatory framework for self-driving cars, which of course is a huge governor for how, and how quickly, the market evolves. Many aspects of safety, liability, and so on will need to be revamped.

Health & Wellness: There were some fantastic new products related to general and digital health and wellness at CES. It was encouraging to see the presence of some of the major health care organizations and insurance companies at the show. There are some important legal, policy, and regulatory questions to sort out over the next couple of years. The issues of accuracy and reliability of these products is one area, as evidenced by the suit against FitBit. Issues of privacy related to consumer data and big data also need to be tackled. With so many products being introduced that can impact outcomes, the policy, legal, and regulatory framework is starting to get pulled along. An important part of conversations with innovators in this category will be not just about their products but also where they are in the regulatory/approval/compliance cycle.

Fitness Wearables: Of concern was the number of fitness wearables demoed at the show that have very similar functionality. There is going to be a significant shakeout in this category in 2016. However, one encouraging sign is there is a new class of products loaded with more and different types of sensors, geared toward the serious athlete or are best-of-breed with respect to a handful of functions, such as measuring sleep or certain types of motion. If these products are used at the elite level and are linked to training programs and particular outcomes, the concomitant legal framework will have to develop as well.

Drones: Drones for consumer and business use have become an industry almost overnight. There were some products and applications shown at CES that were downright amazing. One senses there will be a significant effort to evolve the “Three R” framework for this category, especially since there are so many practical enterprise applications for drones.

Finally, if there was one over-arching theme at CES, it was that this was probably Year One for IoT, except perhaps for a few earlier breakout verticals. These billions of connected devices will help to transform our homes, cities, our transportation and energy infrastructure, and our health. Naturally, there are “big data” opportunities linked to IoT, as well as concerns about privacy and security. It was encouraging to see substantive discussion about these issues at CES. Un-sexy as it might sound, the development of the proper “3R” framework will be as important as the products and business cases in key IoT verticals.

Mark Lowenstein

Mark Lowenstein is Managing Director of Mobile Ecosystem, an advisory services firm focused on mobile and digital media. He founded and led the Yankee Group's global wireless practices and was also VP, Market Strategy at Verizon Wireless. You can follow him on Twitter at @marklowenstein and sign up for his free Lens on Wireless newsletter here.
  • obarthelemy

    Funny, I’d have put “responsibility” first and foremost. It’s one thing to have me EULA away my right to complain if a computer bugs out and loses my files, but quite another to plead “not our problem” if my car crashes, my house catches fire, or some hacker defaces/steals my stuff. There are no backups for those.

    • klahanas

      I even question the full legality of the EULA. Sometimes you don’t get it until you open the product. Also, it’s a one-way contract, most often without legal representation on the buyer’s side. It’s also an ‘unsigned’ contract, which isn’t as strong as a signed one.

      • obarthelemy

        Yep, the validity of EULA should probably if not be limited, at least be clarified. I’m fairly sure they’re worthless in France too.

        But the issues go beyond that. They’re certifying equipment for electric and radio safety. They need to certify it for IT safety as well:
        – use valid encryption for sensitive info
        – have an update mechanism and a contact+process+deadline for fixing issues
        – pass a basic security sanity check (open ports, running daemons, default accounts and pwds, maybe inputs validation/sanitation…)

  • I would put in one more R, and that is “Regional”. Rights, Rules, and Regulations are more often than not, very regional.

  • obarthelemy

    Oh my.. while doing a bit of technology monitoring, I came across that nugget about BYOD: http://www.itmanagerdaily.com/byod-policy-template/

    “The employee assumes full liability for risks including, but not limited to, the partial or complete loss of company and personal data due to an operating system crash, errors, bugs, viruses, malware, and/or other software or hardware failures, or programming errors that render the device unusable.”

    Yeah, sure. They want me to assume responsibility (which can run up to the millions and more in case of business disruption, data leaks to hackers/competitors w/ civil and penal liabilities…) for events way outside my locus of control on a device which they have validated and installed their security apps on.

    If corps feel like they can dictate that to their employees, I think as customers we should also be able to dictate that to our suppliers ?

  • aardman

    Since it looks like we’re soon going to be wired and digitized up the wazoo, shouldn’t we start worrying what’s in the source code running all these products that we will be surrendering all sorts of private information to?

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