Get Inspired: The (creative) itch

Photo © AboutLife/stock.adobe.com

Creativity is fascinating. And creativity is usually triggered by something. A problem, an opportunity, a situation, a crisis, a need – or just an idea. Which turns into an itch, a desire to fix, alleviate, improve, invent …

Interestingly, such situations are frequently created by politicians and bureaucrats – deliberately or unintentionally. Case in point: More than 50% of cars sold in Norway in 2021 were electric. By Q1 2022 the number is almost 80%, including hybrids. Not because people care about their carbon footprint, but because the economic incentives are insane. Whether this is good or bad, is not as obvious as it may seem – an interesting discussion for another day.

An entirely different political creation stimulating creativity these days, and one we’ve discussed before, is GDPR (Who Owns the Data, Privacy? We don’t really Care). In my opinion, the GDPRs of the world have missed their intentions and in sum contributed negatively for a number of reasons (to be discussed in future posts), the most important being the lawmaker’s lack of understanding of the challenge. Plus the fact that it takes attention and resources away from much more critical issues.

However, GDPR is not entirely without merit. It has created much needed attention to ‘personal data’ in general – its collection, storage, usage, ownership etc. And while the protection part has failed, the attention has prompted a ‘creative itch’, starting with the question ‘do we really need to collect (and store) these data?’

This is a dramatic shift from the ‘let’s store everything, it may become useful’ attitude that was prevailing for many years. Storing data uncritically has become risky, mandating conscious selection and choices. Which brings us to the ‘creative itch’, as in ‘how can we do X without collecting, transmitting, storing sensitive data?’

The surveillance device Minut which we discussed last week is a great example of how this creativity works. Surveillance with a purpose: Detecting situations and people, not persons, and reporting situations without sending or storing personal data. A great example of an edge device and a new way of thinking where avoidance of personal data is key.

Triggered by the mentioned post, more than a dozen great examples in the edge realm were brought to my attention. One of them, Alcatraz Rock, stood out as particularly interesting. An access control device for professional environments using facial recognition while adhering to the same privacy principles as the Minut device.

Not rocket science – this is what many of our phones and tablet devices do all the time, but the Alcatraz device has some particularly interesting traits: It learns what you look like but doesn’t send your facial data anywhere. And it’s easily integrated with existing access control systems.

The first question I asked myself when presented with this device – I suspect you will have the same question – was ‘how can it not send my facial data anywhere?’ It cannot possibly store hundreds of face scans on each device, and it has to share them with the other devices in the same system/site.

Photo © Alcatraz.ai

Well, it doesn’t, and this is where the creative itch has had its play. The device scans a face, processes the data locally and creates a unique code, almost like an encrypted password. This code is associated with the ID that person has in an existing system, and becomes the new access control token. Face-only or in combination with something else, a code, a fingerprint, voice, whatever – for even higher levels of security. In short – facial recognition access control without introducing any complications whatsoever related to GDPR & co. Paraphrasing the famous James Bond quote – scanned but not stored.

Eliminating personal data storage woes is not the only ‘itch’ alleviated by the Alcatraz Rock. Another one is registration, the ease at which new users get into the system. Assuming that every user has an ID card, presenting the card to the facial scanner 2-3 times is all it takes. The access device associates the ‘face-code’ with the ID and we’re done.

Even more fascinating – for conferences and events: You get your access card – or a QR code via email or text, to be presented at the gate/checkin, which scans your face, and you’re done. No new data, just a new mechanism – safer and easier.

As pointed out in Life at the Edge, creative use of smartness in edge devices (some call it AI, it isn’t!) is becoming a small revolution in itself. Alleviating personal data challenges is in some cases a primary motivation, but – as the Alcatraz and Minut examples demonstrate (for more examples, check out Zededa) – the benefits are many and sometimes far reaching.

Technology is fascinating. Creative people with the ability to execute, change the world.

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