Google may be compared to a hen-house with many different hens producing many kinds of eggs. Google Fiber lights up one section of the hen-house, while Google transportation is now moving into riderless robot motorbikes. The recent acquisition of Nest, a thermostatic device to control the temperature in a home is making news as a demonstration showed the device getting hacked into and controlling more than the temperature. Google can be found everywhere, at the present time, in any facet of a person’s life from email to maps to driverless vehicles.
The first item, Google Fiber, has two other internet companies in a state of awe filled wonder. Both Time Warner Cable and Comcast recently pushed their internet speeds up due to Google’s entry into the high-speed, fiber optic, internet cable market. The two competitors are making their networks twice as fast but keeping the price the same. Google is offering 1,000 megabits per second (mbps), or 1 gigabyte per second (gbps) and only charging $70 for the service per month. Comcast on the other hand charges $400 a month for its services, in most of its markets.
At this point their jitters may be unfounded, Comcast currently has about 24 percent of the home market in broadband use, and Time Warner Cable controls nearly 13 percent of the same market. Google Fiber is just entering the market. It may take them seven to nine years before they are even on a competitive level in percent of households with Google Fiber. Those driverless motorbikes are also causing a stir, in California. Google’s influence is ubiquitous.
Ron Medford, director of safety in charge of Google’s self-driving vehicles, sent a letter to the government of California this past January, with an appeal for future testing of motorcycles and possibly larger commercial transportation. In the same month protestors went to Anthony Levandowski’s home, as he is the innovator of the Ghost-rider motorcycle, an autonomous two-wheeled vehicle similar to Google’s driverless cars. The four-wheeled vehicles currently being used have been redesigned and are not outfitted with pedals, or steering wheels, though the top speed is 40 mph with two seats and seat belts, a screen that displays the route and stop and start buttons.
The biggest stir however, is with the Nest appliance system that controls temperature settings in a home, among other instruments it is connected to. A Black Hat conference on security demonstrated the ease with which they were able to hack the device and control more than temperatures. The Black Hat security conference is conducted annually in Las Vegas during the month of August. This year’s conference was held August 2-7, 2014.
The exhibition by Black Hat concerned how easy a device could be broken into and cause havoc in a person’s life. One of the points made was the inability to arm a device like this with antivirus software. The implication being that a hacker could control your computer but the actual infection is in the thermostat. The device could then search for credit cards, determine when a person is home, and the hacker could insert their own code and control computers in the home or any other devices on the network.
On a positive Google note, there are a few interesting and useful programs notable enough to look into. For example, Google Flight Search, an exceptionally easy comparison chart for airlines, the Public Data Explorer, finds topics with a few keystrokes, like minimum wage in Europe, or Google Conversions, for units of measurement. Google Translations is always a popular page, and then the nutrition comparison search helps find comparisons between types of foods. The influence Google has projected onto the digital age permeates everywhere there are people who use technology.
By Andy Towle