iPad Dictation in the Lab & Cloud Computing

CultOfMac bring up a really interesting problem with Siri/Dictation… what you say is sent back to Apple and could be retained.

I can see why Apple do it; in reality it is the only way to get Dictation working with any kind of useful real-world accuracy. Not only does the recognition require a lot more data and potentially CPU than you have on your iDevice, but by gathering lots and lots of samples into one place, they can continually improve the performance in the real world.

However, this is probably a technical violation of some confidentiality clauses, government regulations, and potentially prior-art disclosure.

There’s a general point here about Cloud Computing. Yes, there’s a lot of Corporate-level discussion about “The Cloud” and people are starting to wake up to the privacy and legal implications of having your data on other people’s servers. But in parallel with that, and largely unremarked, as our phones get more capable they are also splattering our information all over the Cloud in various ways – some obvious, some declared but invisible (as with Siri), and some rather less honourable (the recent Path/Address Book issue as an example).

I don’t think this is going to stop adoption of iPads and other devices in the Lab; the trend is too powerful to resist. And I don’t think we’re going to see the emergence of a class of devices which “Do things properly” from an Enterprise perspective – Apple’s consumer focus has clearly shown where the market traction is, and anything focused on the Enterprise is never going to get a critical mass.

But I do think this is something to keep in mind; paranoia isn’t going to work, but Inter-company NDAs and Patent Law are going to have to start wrangling with Consumer-focused Cloud services. Those two worlds haven’t really interacted much, it is going to be interesting to watch it play out.

How to read a patent in 60 seconds

For non-lawyers, trying to read a patent is like like fighting through dense jungle armed with a teaspoon. The rigid, formal prose seems designed to intimidate and confuse. Which is ironic because the original intention of the patenting system is that you are granted a temporary monopoly on the commercial benefits of your invention in return for disclosing it for the common good!

So when I bumped into “How to read a patent in 60 seconds” I found it a real breath of fresh air. Insightful, brief, and enjoyable.

Highly recommended if you have ever tried and failed to read a patent!

Of course, you should always seek legal advice etc.

Trade Secret Protection and ELNs

A good ELN can protect a company’s Intellectual Property in a variety of ways aside from the traditional role of creating and preserving evidence to be used in a Patent action.

I don’t know the details of the specific case but this recent legal case where an employee stole trade secrets before leaving for a competitor brings up another way.

Specifically, if they had been using PatentSafe:

  • Every read of a document would have been logged
  • The Custodian’s Console would have alerted management to unusual activity
  • Users would know they were accountable for the company’s secrets

The last of those is most important. If people know they are accountable this would never have happened at all – the scientist wouldn’t have been tempted, the company wouldn’t have had to prosecute, lots of money would have been saved and a prison sentence avoided.

Wow, an understandable NDA

I’m not sure I’ll ever see something like this cross my desk, but this is a refreshing change from the standard densely-worded missive that I often get asked to sign: A non disclosure agreement people can understand on leanstartups.com.

(as an aside, we generally prefer to sign mutual NDAs rather that one-sided ones – just as a matter of mutual respect – we’re both bringing something of value to the conversation, surely?)

Presentation on Scientists & Lawyers

One of the things that’s always interested me is how to reconcile the sometimes conflicting needs and cultures of scientists and lawyers. With some up-front communication and awareness, things can go smoothly – but sadly that communication doesn’t happen until there’s a problem.

I’m just about to give the following presentation at VIB’s Informatics Conference in Munich. Enjoy…