Smart Cars, Recalls and Lawsuits, Oh My….

By now many folks have heard of smart cars. No, not the tiny little 2-doors that you can fit in the trunk of a Cadillac Escalade. I mean “smart” as in connected to the Internet and containing more computers than NASA  a la the 1980s. Smart cars today come in all shapes and sizes and hold great promise not just for on-the-go commuters who want to stay connected in transit, but also for those of us who desperately want to reduce (and one day eliminate) the number of folks killed and injured on our highways and neighborhood streets.

Take for example the Jeep Cherokee.

jeep uconnect
Jeep has packed its vehicles with technology that promises connectivity through satellites, wi-fi, Bluetooth® and more.

The latest model includes computers galore that allow drivers and their passengers to “ask for directions to a certain address or make a call without taking your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.” (Source: You can even use the “available Uconnect® Web+ by Mopar®” to turn your car into a mobile hotspot with WiFi connectivity. The same car also has, “over 70 available Safety and Security features including: Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist+, ParkSense® Front/Rear Park Assist+, Blind Spot Monitoring+ (BSM) and Cross Path Detection+ with dual radar sensors to monitor driver blind spots…” In short, the Jeep Cherokee is smart – it promises to keep you connected, safe and secure on your journey.

Of course, with every step forward with technology, sometimes it seems we have to take 1 or 2 steps back, which is exactly what ethical hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated last week when they wirelessly hacked into a Jeep Cherokee that was traveling down the highway at 70 mph, gaining control of its a/c, radio, windshield wipers and – wait for it – transmission. (Source: Wired Magazine, “Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It,” by Andy Greenberg, July 21, 2015).

Erthical hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek hacked into a Jeep Cherokee from Miller’s basement as the car traveled on a highway ten miles away.

The hack was part of an experiment designed to demonstrate to automakers, the public and the journalist driver inside the vehicle just how vulnerable today’s smart cars are to cyberattacks, as well as the potential dire consequences of failing to properly secure connected vehicles traveling down the road. Within days of the article detailing the hack demonstration, Chrysler issued a recall of 1.4 million vehicles “in order fix a software hole that allowed [the] hackers to wirelessly break into some vehicles and electronically control vital functions.” (Source: Computerworld, “Chrysler recalls 1.4M vehicles after Jeep hack,” by Lucas Mearian, July 24, 2015).  According to NHTSA, this is the first recall of vehicles because of concerns about cybersecurity. (Source: Reuters, “Fiat Chrysler U.S. to recall vehicles to prevent hacking,” by Bernie Woodall and Joseph Menn, July 24, 2015.)

The federal government has taken notice of these issues. “Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) filed legislation [ ] that would require the federal government to establish standards to ensure that automakers secure a driver against vehicle cyber attacks.” (Source: Computerworld). And while it’s unclear if the auto industry will welcome such government action, the industry almost certainly will not welcome the attention of trial lawyers, one of whom has already filed a class action lawsuit against General Motors, Ford and Toyota, claiming that, “the automakers know their vehicles are vulnerable to remote hacking, but [have failed]  to alert consumers about the ‘dangerous defects.'” Source: NetworkWorld, “Ford, GM and Toyota sued for ‘dangerous defects’ in hackable cars,” by Ms. Smith, March 11, 2015).

So as we sit here today, in the summer of 2015, we should be excited but concerned about the connected car future. Will we soon have access to cars that can slow us down, help us stop and altogether avoid life-ending collisions? I hope and believe that we will, sooner rather than later, and for that I am grateful. But at the same time, we also have to hope (and insist) that car makers don’t follow what one of my information security colleagues described to me as, “a rush to market [that] always sacrifices security mainly because it takes much longer to make something secure than it does just to make it.” With millions of cars on the roads and millions of people in and around those cars every day, this is surely one instance in which safety and security really are going to have to be top of mind as companies innovate and push us forward with the smart cars of tomorrow.



The Internet of (Workplace) Things

Last week I had the honor of presenting the keynote at the Texas Association of Business’ Symposium on Employment Relations. My topic: the Internet of Things (IoT) in the workplace. My audience: more than 250 human resource and employee relations professionals with some of the country’s largest employers. Here are two of the takeaways that I shared with them:

1. The Internet of Things is a “today” movement, not something for the workplaces of “tomorrow.” ‘Exhibit A’ for IoT in today’s workplaces is the amazing example of what’s going on in Kissimmee, Florida at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health.

celebration health
Using the IoT, Celebration Health hospital can “predict through data analysis when a nurse is about to burn themselves out and intervene with coaching, [thus] reducing turn over.”
The hospital has badged nurses and patients, using RTLS (real time location services) to develop data on workplace behavior, workflow, resource allocation and employee workload. The IoT connected badges created an incredible amount of real-time data, which after analysis allowed the hospital to update, revise and change its policies and requirements with its staff. The end result of this IoT in the workplace application? Happier, more efficient nurses, better patient care and a better patient experience. Check out this article in Forbes Magazine by Robert Vamosi for more details.

2. Wearables will figure prominently in the IoT-empowered workplace. To address the problem of exhausted and overworked employees, consider IoT sweat-monitoring devices now in development. “A new sensor developed at the Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) could allow for a tiny adhesive electronic stamp attached to the arm, which can show one’s level of hydration, stress or fatigue…” (Source: ETHealthworld,com, “Soon, wearable device that assesses your health via sweat,” May 18, 2015).

sweat monitoring
IoT wearable sensors could detect calcium, sodium or potassium in a person’s sweat.

These devices will be able to provide real time actionable data concerning an employees health at the exact time that employee is performing his or her work. In strenuous environments (think factory floors, by way of example), and with this data being relayed real time to a monitoring employer’s supervisor, employees who are at risk for heat exhaustion or overexertion could be removed from their work until they recover, allowing the employee to avoid injury. Check out this great post by Michael Haberman entitled, “Future Friday: Monitoring employee well-being by testing their sweat,” for more observations on this IoT in the workplace technology.

In short, the Internet of Things is here now and is already altering and impacting our workplaces. How we dedicate, direct, lead and support employees is changing, and the IoT-empowered employer will take full advantage of these technologies to develop outstanding work environments, resulting in more powerful and valuable results for the customers they serve.

For a full look at all of the takeaways from my presentation to the TAB ER Symposium entitled, “The Internet of Things, Driving Change in the Workplace of Tomorrow,” check out my slides  at