On Technology Innovation, AI and IoT. Interview with Philippe Kahn
“There is a lot of hype about the dangers of IoT and AI. It’s important to understand that nobody is building Blade-Runner style replicants.” — Philippe Kahn
I have interviewed Philippe Kahn. Philippe is a mathematician, well known technology innovator, entrepreneur and founder of four technology companies: Fullpower Technologies, LightSurf Technologies, Starfish Software and Borland.
Q1. Twenty years ago, you spent about a year working on a Web-based infrastructure that you called Picture Mail. Picture Mail would do what we now call photo “sharing”. How come it took so long before the introduction of the iPhone, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live and co.?
Philippe Kahn: Technology adoption takes time. We designed a system where a picture would be stored once and a link-back would be sent as a notification to thousands. That’s how Facebook and others function today. At the time necessity created function because for wireless devices and the first Camera-Phones/Cellphone-Cameras the bandwidth on cellular networks was 1200 Baud at most and very costly. Today a picture or a video are shared once on Facebook and millions/billions can be notified. It’s exactly the same approach.
Q2. Do you have any explanation why established companies such as Kodak, Polaroid, and other camera companies (they all had wireless camera projects at that time), could not imagine that the future was digital photography inside the phone?
Philippe Kahn: Yes, I met with all of them. Proposed our solution to no avail. They had an established business and thought that it would never go away and they could wait. They totally missed the paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts are challenges for any established player, look at the demise of Nokia for missing the smartphone.
Q3. What is your take on Citizen journalism?
Philippe Kahn: Citizen journalism is one of the pillars of future democracy. There is always someone snapping and pushing forward a different point of view. We see it every day around the world.
Q4. Do you really believe that people can’t hide things anymore?
Philippe Kahn: I think that people can’t hide what they do in public: Brutality, Generosity, Politics, Emotions. We all have a right to privacy. However in public, there is always someone snapping.
Q5. What about fake news?
Philippe Kahn: There is nothing new about Fake News. It’s always been around. What’s new is that with the web omnipresent, it’s much more effective. Add modern powerful editing and publishing tools and sometimes it’s very challenging to differentiate what’s real from what’s fake.
Q6. You told Bob Parks, who interviewed you for a Wired article in 2000: ‘In the future people will document crimes using video on their phones. Then everyone will know the real story.’ Has this really changed our world?
Philippe Kahn: Yes, it has. It’s forced policing for example to re-examine protocols. Of course not every violence or crime is covered, but video and photos are helping victims.
Q7. What are the challenges and opportunities in country like Africa, where people don’t have laptops, but have phones with cameras?
Philippe Kahn: The opportunities are great. Those countries are skipping the laptop and focusing on a Smartphone with a cloud infrastructure. That’s pretty much what I do daily. In fact, this is what I am doing as I am answering these questions.
Q8. Back to the future: you live now in the world of massive firehouses of machine data and AI driven algorithms. How these new technologies will change the world (for the better or the worst)?
Philippe Kahn: There are always two sides to everything: Even shoes can be used to keep me warm or march fascist armies across illegitimately conquered territories. The dangers of AI lie in police states and in a massive focus on an advertising business model. But what we do with AI is helping us find solutions for better sleep, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and more. We need to accept one to get the other in some ways.
Q9. In my recent interview with interview Vinton G. Cerf , he expressed great concerns about the safety, security and privacy of IoT devices. He told me “A particularly bad scenario would have a hacker taking over the operating system of 100,000 refrigerators.”
Philippe Kahn: When we build AI-powered IoT solutions at Fullpower, security and privacy are paramount. We follow the strictest protocols. Security and privacy are at risk every day with computer viruses and hacking. Nothing is new. It’s always a game of cat and mouse. I want to believe that we are a great cat. We work hard at it.
Q10. With your new startup, FullPower Technologies, you have developed under-the-mattress sensors and cloud based artificial intelligence to gather data and personalize recommendations to help customers improve their sleep. What do you think of Cerf´s concerns and how can they be mitigated in practice?
Philippe Kahn: Vince’s concerns are legitimate. At Fullpower our privacy, security and anonymity protocols are our #1 focus together with quality, accuracy, reliability and repeatability. We think of what we build as a fortress. We’ve built in security, privacy, preventive maintenance, automated secure trouble shooting.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Philippe Kahn: There is a lot of hype about the dangers of IoT and AI. It’s important to understand that nobody is building Blade-Runner style replicants. AI is very good at solving specialized challenges: Like being the best at playing chess, where the rules are clear and simple. AI can’t deal with general purpose intelligence that is necessary for a living creature to prosper. We are all using AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Supervised Learning for simple and useful solutions.
Philippe Kahn is CEO of Fullpower, the creative team behind the AI-powered Sleeptracker IoT Smartbed technology platform and the MotionX Wearable Technology platform. Philippe is a mathematician, scientist, inventor, and the creator of the camera phone, which original 1997 implementation is now with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
– Internet of Things: Safety, Security and Privacy. Interview with Vint G. Cerf, ODBMS Industry Watch, 2017-06-11
– On Artificial Intelligence and Analytics. Interview with Narendra Mulani, ODBMS Industry Watch, 2017-12-08
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