Wait! What!?…Digital Assets are Everywhere

Would you be able to quickly list all your online accounts?  Would you get stuck after listing off your phone, laptop, and perhaps your online bank account?  That’s okay – we live in a time where the things we own are so technologically advanced that understanding their mechanics is beyond our thought. Our laptops can sync with our TV’s.  And, if my fuel is running low in my car, my digitized dashboard will tell me while also directing me to the nearest gas station. This maze of interconnectivity between the things in our environment and the way we interact with these things, is a concept that has been termed and accepted as “The Internet of Things (IoT)”.  

IoT is an important concept, referring to the connectivity of the various “things” we encounter every day: cars, phones, washing machines, TV’s, watches – you name it.  It’s all beginning to communicate with each other and all happens via the Internet.  From our car navigation system to the fitbit daily step monitor, to even managing our home heating. THIS IS ALL IoT!  

 

Source: Mobile Europe

 

Virtual Assistants and the IoT

It’s these developments we have to thank for the introduction of in-home virtual assistants.  One of the most recent and disruptive developments in The IoT is the integration of virtual assistants into our homes – activating our TV’s, turning on music, telling us the weather, controlling the thermostat, and even locking our doors. These are all actions taken through verbalized commands to devices like Amazon’s Alexa or the Echo home assistant. To date over 35.6 million Americans alone have adopted the use of these technologies and *that usage is anticipated to grow a whopping 130% this year.

Remember the blockbuster movie Her (2013)?  It starred Scarlett Johansson as the voice of a virtual assistant named “Samantha”? Taking place in the future, the world has become dominated by all things being connected through technology. This movie is quickly becoming reality with the dawn of the Internet of Things. Samantha is borderline everywhere and all knowing, via the connection with other virtual assistants and being hardwired with the DNA of the Internet. While this level of accessibility is probably only a few years off (yes, truly, perhaps just a few), we are nonetheless entering an era where in-home virtual assistance via devices hooked up to things like appliances, utilities security, and the internet, is a reality.

 

How these developments are broadening the scope of our digital assets

The IoT has created a dense network of connection between everyday items, information and things that all constitute valuable assets.  For example, these in-home virtual assistants store valuable information about us, from biometric data to our best kept secrets privately recorded. An impressive example of the value of this technology can be told by a recent case in trying to solve a murder.  At the time of the brutal slaying, an *Alexa virtual assistant was operating and recording the encounter. The police attempted to retrieve the device recordings but Amazon refused to grant access, siting the privacy rights of the owner.  

 

Here’s how Amazon responded:

Amazon has refused to turn over the recordings and asserts that they are protected by the First Amendment.  Amazon has argued that turning over the recordings to the police would chill users’ exercise of their free speech rights to seek, receive, and review information in the privacy of their own homes.  Amazon also notes that searches of digital records have the potential to reveal an extraordinary amount of information about the user, and the scope of this information may be much broader than what might be gleaned from the review of a paper document.”

 

The last sentence alone tells us just exactly how valuable and protected the information on these devices can be; for example, Alexa, Echo and OKGoogle can all hold unprecedented amounts of personal information. The definition of assets is clearly broadening and their value quickly growing, even the actual tangibility of the property is itself changing. The web of interconnectivity between things has grown SO much in the past bunch of years that we are quickly approaching a new concept dubbed “The Internet of Everything”.

 

 

As an example, let’s consider cell phones. No longer are cell phones just phones, they’re much more: a communication device, data log, file manager, utility controller, message delivery system, transaction processor, and yes even an access point for controlling Alexa.  In addition, our cell phones and the accounts they hold are accessed via passwords, and passwords themselves are valuable information that could be considered an asset.

As the scope continues to grow so too does the demand for information provision and best practises from professionals dealing with estates. The availability of data and information along with the complexity of these assets has created a world in which we are quite literally embedded in a web of both digital and non-digital assets. These developments are blurring the lines of both what constitutes an asset and exactly where it can be located, thereby furthering the duties and demands for professionals dealing with these assets.

 

Sources:

https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Alexa-Say-What-Voice-Enabled-Speaker-Usage-Grow-Nearly-130-This-Year/1015812

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/digital-evidence-and-privacy-can-you-ask-alexa-if-mom-s-incapacitated

_______________________________

Directive Communications Systems (DCS) provides resources and tools to estate planning professionals and individuals to manage digital assets; helping to keep the growth and dispersion of these assets under wraps. DCS helps you work through the estate planning process keeping you in line with the digital era.

Learn more about better managing digital assets.

 

Subscribe to Newsletter                                         Book a Demo