What should we expect in the technology space in 2017?
We take a look at current trends and focus on some of the legal opportunities and pitfalls that they present.
Hacking and data breach were major concerns in 2016, with a series of high profile incidents hitting the headlines, from the hacking of retail banks to ransomware demands on hospitals. Many predict an even greater impact in 2017. While it affects businesses across all sectors, cybersecurity is brought into sharp focus in those deploying data-rich technologies. The potential for legal and reputational penalties is huge and the issue is increasingly one for the boardroom.
We expect to see businesses of all sizes looking for greater support with cybersecurity, while a lack of a joined-up market for 360 degree cybersecurity presents a problem. Many areas need to be addressed simultaneously, from technical excellence to staff training. We also expect to see mainstream providers of business insurance giving cyber risk increasing prominence in their product line-up.
The launch of CES 2017 in Las Vegas saw AI at the forefront, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google promoting their voice-controlled virtual assistants to link up with other products – speakers, table lamps and even toasters.
We see AI as key across a range of customer service contexts too. In fintech, for example, analysis of how account holders make financial decisions to offer customised advice, and AI service agents that can learn and improve are becoming available.
Legal issues here revolve around accessing and using customer data in compliance with the requirements of security, consent and control. Also important will be contractual clarity between the different players to ensure that safety is maintained and responsibility for proper functioning is clear.
3. Internet of Things
We expect that 2017 will see the release of more new products that really start to make IoT part of daily life. Connected products in areas like medical applications and home safety, for example in the retail and private rental sectors, will become increasingly familiar.
IoT requires the collection and processing of extensive customer data. While not all of it is especially confidential or sensitive in nature, issues around the collection and use of data are key. And because IoT involves connections between different products and networks, clear responsibility for safe functioning is important.
CES 2017 highlighted a range of different bot technologies. Emotech’s Olly offers a smart assistant able to recognise and respond to different individuals. Modular robots offering a range of different functions able to be connected to a base station were on show.
As well as customer data, product safety and reliability will be key here. Offering services to elderly or disabled individuals, for example, will place a high degree of responsibility on producers to ensure consistent functioning.
5. Autonomous vehicles
Google has rebranded its driverless car project and (importantly) its embedded driverless car software systems Waymo. And with Uber trialling autonomous vehicles in California, and several trials across the UK, and Volvo's Drive Me project expected to make available 100 cars to individuals later this year, autonomy is looking a lot less futuristic.
While regulations around the testing and use of autonomous vehicles have been put in place in a number of locations, international consistency is in short supply. United Nations-led efforts to move towards an agreed approach permitting greater autonomy on the roads take time, leaving individual countries and regions to set up their own programmes. This means that developers will have to adapt their approach to accommodate local rules and requirements.
Learn more about our analysis of autonomous vehicles and the law here.
Drones are still high up on the agenda. Amazon has started making drone deliveries in Cambridge, but to a large, flat garden – will this really take off? The legal issues for drones range from compliance with specific rules and regulations applying in the area where the drone will be used, to wider considerations around data collection and use, insurance and possible liability for damage.
7. Gig economy workers
Growth in online services may leave the real people delivering the goods or providing the services exposed to insecurity and low pay. We expect to see increased activism for workers’ rights and government action to protect the rights of individual workers. Read more on how the UK is responding to these concerns here.
8. Fintech on the move
With mobile internet usage now ahead of desktop reliance on mobile devices for financial transactions is likely to increase. The EU’s Second Payment Services Directive, due to take effect early in 2018 will see fintechs gearing up for change. Our fintech specialist, Simon Warburton, analyses the legal implications and offers practical tips here.
Innovation foundation Nesta predicts that blockchain will find more mainstream applications, away from the techie world of Bitcoin, allowing individuals to cut out the middle man and take greater control over their own data. But many feel that some of the more extreme claims for blockchain are just hype. Specific use cases where the technology will offer real benefits will become apparent. In finance, for example, this is expected to be trade finance and capital markets.
10. Medtech - medical records hosting
Medical data presents its own set of problems. Ready availability and accurate processing of patient records are essential, but public concerns around the data sharing deal agreed between Google's DeepMind and the UK National Health Service highlight the difficulties.
We envisage an increasing trend of patient records increasingly being hosted on purpose-built systems hosted by private sector providers, facilitating increased availability, accuracy and sharing of medical records. The requirements for control, data security and patient consent are especially important in this context.
A new privacy framework - the GDPR
A common issue across these cutting-edge technologies is the collection, storage and use of customer data. Any business that collects and processes customer data having any connection with or presence in Europe will need to review their products and services to ensure they comply with the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
This will take effect in May 2018 and will require data controllers to ensure “privacy by default”. And products and services that store personal data will need to provide improved controls (including data portability facilities) for users. You can see an introductory guide to the GDPR here.