Virtual Cables for IoT Devices

10. January, 2017

IoT devices are a security nightmare: They should be easy to use / set up but hard to hack.

With classic devices, the solution is “cable”. If there is no cable between two devices, they can’t talk to each other. If you follow the cable, you can see who talks to whom.

Translating this solution for the wireless devices is “virtual cables”. Each device needs a wireless (NFC) connection area where the user can press a “virtual cable drum” (VCD). The device then passes a token to the VCD. Next, the user presses the VCD to the other device.

That creates a virtual wire between the two devices. The VCD is just a small NFC knob which can keep an encrypted token for a couple of minutes. Not having batteries and permanent storage will be a plus: No one can steal the tokens after the connections have been made.

In a similar fashion, the VCD could be used to install security updates: Put the token for the update or the whole patch on the VCD, press the VCD against the device to update to trigger the update.

Related articles:


App to Manage Terms and Conditions

28. December, 2014

There is this old joke on User Friendly about license agreements: “Have any of you ever actually read a license agreement?” “I have! A few words, anyway …” “And what did the part you read say?” “umm… ‘I accept.'” (whole story starts here; afterwards, someone actually wrote a version of Clippy for Vim called Vigor).

I remembered all this when I saw this video on YouTube:

And that led me to an idea: How about an app which tracks T&C for you? In general, it should take a license and show you the important bits. Then, you could say “okay, I like that and that and I can live with those.” The app would then remember your preferences. For the rest of the terms, you could chose “I grudgingly accept these” or “no business with me because of this term.”

Even better, the app could notify you of terms which don’t apply to you because of local law or because courts ruled them out.

That way, the app could just show you the parts of a new license which you want to know about, that is the parts which you didn’t already agree to and without the parts that you’d accept anyway.


Printing Money @Home

2. July, 2013

Ever thought about printing money at home?

It’s illegal, right. But think about this idea:

Your printer driver is connected to, say, PayPal. You draw some cute image (or use your cat if you can’t draw or the Internet, it’s full of cats). You create a QR code worth $15, slap them together with gimp and go to spend it.

Everyone has a mobile phone, so checking those codes would be no big deal. Just an app and you’re done.

And the best part: The NSA would know all the time where you are! You’d never get lost! When they notice you stopped spending money, they could send you an ambulance!


Patently Unpatentable: Remote Presence Systems

16. April, 2013

With the recent advances in 3D printing and robotics, there will be a time when traveling to conferences to meet people in person will work like this:

You send a 3D scan of your head and hands to a 3D printing service plus a set of clothes via normal mail. When the clothes arrive and the face has been printed, both will be dressed on an android frame.

The androids will then meet “in person” while you can safely stay at home.

Related:

 


Patently Unpatentable: Federal Circuit is Trying to Develop New Test For Patentability

20. October, 2012

One of the old problems for patent office or a court is to determine whether a patent is patentable. “‘Laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas’ are not patentable under US law – but their particular inventive application is.” (source)

But with lawsuits like Apple vs. Samsung (great coverage on groklaw), it’s becoming obvious even for the hard-core patent defenders that things must change.

The Federal Circuit is now trying to come up with a test that answers whether software is patentable or just an abstract idea.

Maybe they should check this article on groklaw: What Does “Software Is Mathematics” Mean? – Part 1

 


Patently Unpatentable: Put a Camera Into the Headlight

19. October, 2012

Simple idea: If you exit a tight side street with high walls on both sides, you can’t see the traffic coming from the sides.

If there was a camera in the headlights of your car, you could see around the corner without exposing more than a few centimeters of your car.

Other interesting technologies:


Patently Unpatentable: Ask Patents

25. September, 2012

Ask Patents is a new website by the guys at StackExchange with the goal to answer questions about the patent system in general and to help finding prior art for certain patents.

From the FAQ:

Ask Patents – Stack Exchange is a collaboratively edited Q&A platform for patent experts, inventors and citizens who wish to participate in the US patent process. Its primary purpose is to help individuals:

  1. Solicit help finding prior art that might apply to a patent or application
  2. Get answers to hard questions about specific patents
  3. Ask questions about the US patent system or process

Ask Patents – Stack Exchange was designed in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Peer To Patent, whose efforts empowering citizens to help find prior art inspired the crowdsourced approach you see here. We also worked with Google to leverage the power of Google Patents Search and their new Prior Art Finder Tool.

If you care about patents or work in the software industry, have a look.