Smart Dust: The Legal Issues

Smart Dust is a system of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) which include sensors or robots that are able to detect light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, or chemicals. They are usually operated on a computer network wirelessly and are distributed over an area to perform tasks by sensing through radio-frequency identification.

The concept for this technology came from the Research and Development Corporation (RAND) and a series of governmental studies for potential military applications. This technological advancement was influenced by science fiction authors who mentioned microrobots, artificial swarm intelligence, or necroevolution. Now, this new technology is capable of collecting and transmitting data to and from specific locations. These tiny electronic devices, which are also known as motes, can detect light, vibration, and temperature. Also, the data that is collected by these devices can be uploaded to the Cloud or other remote location for processing.

Smart Dust v. Internet of Things

Smart Dust is more sophisticated than the Internet of Things which has been discussed in previous articles. The Internet of Things is the network of electronic devices that communicate with each other via the Internet without human intervention.  It has caused concerns regarding security since vast amounts of unsecure electronic devices are being used to send and receive information. Furthermore, the data breaches that lead to the loss of privacy have become more common as the Internet is used to connect electronic devices via private and public networks. These devices include smart cars, smart homes, smart hospitals, smart highways, or smart factories.  However, the lack of security protecting information is creating privacy concerns as data is collected by companies and shared with third parties.  Also, the smart device can be accessed without authorization by third parties and its information can be used for illegal purposes.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of this technology?

Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages with every technological advancement. The advantages include advancements in manufacturing, production, healthcare, scientific, and military operations. Smart Dust can track products in the supply chain with more detail and monitor the process. It can also be implemented in a patient’s body in order to perform healthcare diagnostics. This technology is referred to as “StimDust” which is intended to act as a wireless nerve stimulator and resolve medical issues within the patient’s body.

The disadvantages include concerns over and potential complications with privacy, security, regulation, and cost. We have discussed the first three issues in the context of the Internet of Things. You may also click on this link for more information.  Smart Dust constitutes a group of sensors that collect and transfer data which may include confidential information – e.g., name, address, social security number, credit card number. So, it is possible that this sensitive information may fall into the wrong hands (e.g., hackers). In return, the hackers will take advantage of this opportunity by selling or using the confidential information. Also, is the technology secure? In other words, is the data that is being collected and transferred encrypted? How does the government intend to regulate this technology? Will it require special training, qualification, or licensing? These are all valid questions which will hopefully be answered and resolved in the future.

At our law firm, we help clients navigate through the legal obstacles.  Please do not hesitate to contact our internet and technology attorneys for any questions.