Could future IoT devices allow paedophiles to hide abuse images?

26 Jan 2018

Image: Mayuree Moonhirun/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, a think tank makes the worrying claim that connected devices could be used to hide paedophilic images, and China wants to unite the world using the technology.

For Irish gadget lovers, it was big news this week with the Amazon Echo officially being launched in Ireland along with its AI-enabled assistant, Alexa.

The e-commerce giant has revealed that the all-new Amazon Echo, Dot and Echo Plus are now shipping to Ireland from

As well as the hardware, Amazon Music Unlimited with a catalogue of over 40m songs is available for €3.99 per Echo device.

Meanwhile, on the research side of things, a team from the University of Southampton achieved a nanotechnology breakthrough that could change the future of electronics design.

Using a memristor – a simpler and smaller alternative to the transistor – the team could allow computers to one day switch on instantly and remember every action ever performed on it.

This will make it invaluable to the rapidly growing IoT market, the researchers claimed.

IoT could allow paedophiles hide abusive images

There were some worrying reports from a UK think tank called the Internet Watch Foundation claiming that the proliferation of IoT devices could be used by paedophiles to hide and store abusive images.

According to The Telegraph, the organisation claimed that over the next three to five years, as devices increase their storage capacities, cases whereby an innocent person’s smart fridge or smart thermostat is used for such means could become increasingly common.

Paedophiles with the right know-how would be able to scan for vulnerable devices on a network and move the harmful content to unsuspecting people’s devices for retrieval at a later date.

“Because of the inherent nature of the lack of security with IoT devices as things stand, it does mean that there’s a huge risk,” said Internet Watch Foundation CEO Fred Langford.

“That person may not have actually put it there themselves, and it could be that it will be left on [them] to try and prove that, and they may not have the technical ability to be able to do that.”

China sees global cooperation through IoT

Given it has time and time again shown itself to be the world leader in adopting IoT technologies, China is now calling for greater cooperation among nation states starting with a global demonstration platform for the technology.

According to China Daily, the comments were made by He Xuming, executive chair of the World Internet of Things Convention, an event expected to launch a world IoT standard organising committee.

“The formation of the world IoT platform will bring tens of millions of dollars to the global economic markets,” he said at the event.

“Today, China is way ahead in terms of bike-sharing, drones, uncrewed supermarkets, intelligent driving and other aspects of IoT applications. And we will work with other countries to set the game rules and further boost the development and application of IoT.”

It was revealed earlier this month that the country’s government has installed more than 100,000 sensors along a 1,400km stretch of canal as part of the one of the largest infrastructure projects ever seen.

Motion sickness glasses for autonomous cars?

One potential problem in a future of autonomous cars is that when our eyes see movement without apparent control, our brains become disorientated.

In the same way that some passengers can experience this because their eyes aren’t fixed on the road ahead, so too will the person who would have traditionally been the driver.

With that in mind, researchers from the University of Michigan have secured a patent for a pair of glasses that could potentially prevent this motion sickness from occurring.

The glasses provide light stimuli in the visual periphery of the passenger to mimic what the rider might see outside. This system eliminates the conflict between vestibular and visual inputs, the team said, and the patent covers both wearable and vehicle-based embodiments of the system.

Keith Hughes of the university’s commercialisation department said it could be particularly useful as the interior of cars change with growing autonomy.

“As we move toward autonomous vehicles, the interiors could also have an unusual configuration. It could be couches in a vehicle or you might be sitting backwards or sideways,” he said. “Providing a solution to motion sickness will be necessary.”

Booming Indian firm eyes massive push into IoT

One of India’s most successful consumer products companies, V-Guard Industries, has announced plans to make a major move into the IoT market.

According to Bloomberg, the company has achieved 3,985pc growth since its 2008 public listing and sees India’s booming middle class as a profitable market.

“IoT is the next big step for our company as smartphone users are expected to rise every passing day and more people are becoming tech savvy,” said V-Guard Industries managing director Mithun Chittilappilly.

One of its key products will be smart fans – a popular commodity in India – having already started with water heaters and back-up power systems.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic