In one of the brilliant short stories that Isaac Asimov contributed to the science-fiction collection The Androids are Coming, the director of research for the U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men Corp. suggests that more human-like, positronic-brain robots – more like androids – could be made popular and desirable among the living population if living, sentient folks could see them doing bigger things that aren’t tremendously important or dangerous. Maybe if one were elected mayor, for instance, folks would appreciate androids more and buy them to be their butlers.
Luckily – up to now, at least – technology hasn’t had to be sold to the consumer or to the enterprise using this kind of “trickle down” logic. But today, a new subsidiary of Motorola Mobility, the company Google seeks to acquire, is invoking an Asimov aura around the launch of enterprise-class communications security services designed for, of all things, Android devices.
It’s calling itself 3LM, short for “Three Laws of Mobility.” Every Asimov fan recalls the Three Laws of Robotics. At the CTIA conference in San Diego this week, 3LM is presenting three very similarly-phrased “laws” that it believes should govern the behavior of mobile devices, Android-class in particular. And here they are, the “Three Laws of Mobility” (3LM):
1. A mobile device may not harm its user or, through inaction, allow its user to come to harm though malicious code or content.
2. A mobile device must protect itself and the integrity of its data and secured communications.
3. A mobile device must let the user use the device freely, as long as such usage does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Sci-fi fans might follow the Asimov route and invoke a “fourth law,” that an Android device must always present itself as such, and not pretend to be something else. The problem is, for 3LM’s plan to work, it does need to step into Research In Motion’s shoes. To that end, at CTIA this week, it’s showing previews of enterprise-class services designed to compete directly with BlackBerry and Good Technology – services that depend on new features of Android phones that 3LM says have already been added, thanks to direct collaboration with manufacturers.
Unlike an ordinary consumer-grade Android phone, a 3LM phone will have built-in device encryption, strong password sign-on, whitelists and blacklists for apps and corporate resources, remote installation of apps, and the ability for remote admins to track these devices via GPS and detect what they are being used for. This according to a company launch profile provided this morning by 3LM to RWW.
In a world that obeys the laws of 3LM, if you will, every enterprise-class Android device would have a dedicated IP address. A patent issued to parent company Motorola in June 2009 describes a concept called a Nomadic router as something that could conceivably give a device connected to a home network gateway a separate, unique IP address making it a component of a secure enterprise network at the same time. Not Network Address Translation, mind you, but a kind of “superimposed Internet” that keeps devices attached to business networks even while they’re at home.
Conceivably, 3LM may be making valuable use of Motorola patents such as this one to strike what may be considered the final blow against RIM, whose communications security appears to be the single thread keeping its prospects alive in this hugely competitive market. Indeed, the rise and near-fall of RIM in a handful of years also looks like something out of science fiction.