HARDWARE

How privacy came to the forefront of laptop design at CES 2022


In recent years, there has been renewed pressure on privacy features in the notebook industry. As most PC sales are made up of laptops, and battery life is dramatically extended, the use of laptops in public spaces for business use has increased accordingly. Plenty of business laptops now offer things like webcam privacy closures as an example, but much more can be done to protect business information from prying eyes in public.

Sure View Privacy Screen by HP

One of the recent solutions is integrated privacy screens, which dramatically reduce the viewing angle of the display, so that if someone tries to look at your screen while working, they will see almost nothing. While a good solution, these privacy screens can also affect device usage to the detriment of the user experience, which is why, for example, HP’s Sure View integrated privacy screen can be turned on and off.

A new solution appeared this year at CES from several manufacturers, and that is the active refusal to surf on the shoulder using IR cameras to detect unwanted eyes and then blur the screen if they are detected. I remember seeing Tobii Eye Tracking hardware and software for the first time at MSI’s booth at CES, I believe, in 2015. Tobii uses IR cameras to monitor eye movements, and at the time advertised itself as a gaming feature. Tobii as a brand is still best known in the consumer space for its gaming efforts, but they are now partnering with MSI on their business line to provide Tobii Aware, which uses the concepts of their gaming products for business privacy functionality.

With Tobii Aware, the laptop will be able to continuously provide authentication for the correct user, so if that user turns his head, the screen will blur, and when he returns, he will return to focus. Presence detection is another feature that has become the focus, including Windows itself, and the device can be locked automatically if you move away. Tobii will also allow you to have either visual cues, or privacy screen activation, or blurring if someone is trying to surf your business.

Lenovo ThinkPad webcam

Tobii is not the only player in this area. Lenovo has partnered with Lattice Semiconductor to integrate the FPGA for computer vision into the new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 for presence detection, which will not only increase privacy and enable more accurate screen unlocking – even with a mask – but is also touted as a battery-saving feature. wake up the computer only when the right person approaches it, not just a passing pet or someone else in the area. The ThinkPad X1 will also automatically dim the screen when not looking at it, and since the screen is the highest power consumption in the entire system, it can further extend battery life. This is even more important for OLED screens, which are becoming more common in laptop space.

AMD is also in this game, in partnership with a company called Eyeware to bring a download app for Radeon users in the first half of 2022. The AMD / Eyeware solution is a little different, in that instead of using cameras to actively spot surfers on their shoulders, it is based on tracking what the user is doing. Eyeware wants to use real-time eye tracking to determine what the user is looking at, then blur / darken everything else, essentially functioning as a form of passive refusal to surf on the shoulder.

While laptop privacy has certainly been an active development feature of several manufacturers in recent years, there is no doubt that the current work environment, with a dramatic shift to remote work in the last two years, has fueled the idea of ​​protecting business information further than it might organically. Given that data that is now accessed outside the office is much more frequent, containing this data from prying eyes is certainly something that all businesses would like. New upcoming combinations of hardware and software from several players should help alleviate some worries, although, of course, the protection of business data is still, even with these protections, something that workers will need to be trained about.



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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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