Sunday, October 17, 2021

Scoring new services, then getting ready to kill the ones you have already

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As the Trump administration lays the groundwork for the rapid rollout of 5G wireless technology, the same companies developing the technology are urging regulators to put a price on providing “gap-filling” security services for the booming technology.

“Investors and vendors are spending a great deal of time and capital today to create the infrastructure for 5G, and there is a clear business case to support the significant financial investment required,” wrote Ericsson, Ericsson and Huawei. “The security services that will be required to ensure this infrastructure is protected will require the same type of investment, and in some cases far greater costs.”

The companies recommend removing “standards-based approaches from this line of business,” suggesting an approach that might be known as the “Internet of Cars” that limits access to some applications if they require “enhanced levels of security” or privacy measures.

There is certainly no shortage of criticisms aimed at this approach, which pits a new demand for yet another layer of security on to an already complicated market. Advocates have warned that separating traditional security services from smartphone apps would make it difficult for software developers to deliver a deep experience for consumers.

Still, it’s a move that has implications for a number of companies, including those in the security field. In general, innovation in the tech industry has required stepping on the toes of competitors, including by creating new market segments in areas where they’re not in business. That dynamic has opened up business for Google and Facebook. Those tech giants must now face the problem of having some services required by new technologies perceived as fundamentally threatening their existing business models.

On the Internet of Cars, most people are familiar with a concept from the past few years known as the “connected car,” or the idea that data that can be gathered from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication with intelligent wireless networks, will allow vehicles to know where they are in a real-time way. The more sensors that receive data about the car’s position and more specific information about what it’s doing, the more likely the car can determine which driver it needs to brake for or where to park. The benefits of that kind of information are obvious. But there are risks to consumers, too. For example, in January, Google said it was voluntarily removing location tracking by some Google Maps users. While many of those users have been notified that they could turn off location tracking, more than 40 million users had been receiving it secretly since October 2017.

While companies like Google and Facebook have created some security problems in the past, they have found it difficult to proceed in many areas of the technology world. They’ve had trouble convincing governments to make them part of the local infrastructure. They’ve had a hard time convincing consumers to turn off their new smart home devices that can collect valuable personal information. And now, they face a heightened threat from new threats that come to the forefront of the global discussion about security and the need for stringent protection.

Whether they succeed in their efforts or not, the conflict is forcing the debate about innovation to take a new turn. The companies who helped make a huge success out of the Internet have set their sights on 5G. But now, some of the companies who helped create a history of new market segments are in danger of creating a new one.

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