Canon Europe, world leader in imaging solutions
Robotic insects and ‘smart bacteria' set to threaten security in the Office of the future, warns Canon Europe
A new futurology report, commissioned by Canon Europe, world leader in imaging solutions, has warned that robotic insects, artificial intelligence and ‘smart bacteria' are likely to be the tools of espionage used for surveillance and the illicit gathering of sensitive information in the Office of the future.

  • Future threats to business security include tiny robotic insects, intelligent viruses and ‘smart bacteria' , a new study from Canon Europe finds
  • Gadgets and high-capacity storage devices named the No.1 security threat in the Office of the future
  • Businesses warned of the dangers of overzealous security measures but urged to prepare for the future

Produced by leading futurologist Ian Pearson, the report predicts what tomorrow's office will look like and the security threats it will face.

It is predicted that tiny robotic insects, developed for military surveillance, could be used to spy within an office, or to introduce malicious software or hardware in to key equipment. At the same time, artificial intelligence (AI) may also be used to create more sophisticated viruses, while autonomous AI entities will become threats in their own right. It is also predicted that smart bacteria could be organised into highly sophisticated intelligent information gathering machines and deployed within an office.

Adam Gillbe, European Solutions Marketing Manager, Canon Europe said: "It may sound like something straight out of Hollywood but smart bacteria, artificial intelligence and even robotic insects pose a genuine threat to business security in the future."

"This report thrusts the possibility of serious corporate espionage in to the spotlight. Businesses must be aware that security threats are constantly evolving and be prepared for what's around the corner."

Produced by leading futurologist Ian Pearson, the report predicts what tomorrow's office will look like and the security threats it will face

The minority of people that are dishonest or open to bribery, and those who are simply prone to human error will continue to represent a significant security threat, the report states. The trend towards physically smaller, higher-capacity data storage devices is named as the most significant security threat to the Office of the future. By simply using increasingly tiny, commonplace storage devices such as USB sticks, portable multimedia players and mobile phones, employees could smuggle huge amounts of data out of the office undetected.

To combat this threat, new artificial intelligence technology similar to that used for current airport security may well be used to spot strange or suspicious behaviour in the future office. Despite these trends, Ian Pearson warns against companies implementing overbearing security policies: "Security should never become a barrier to work," he says. "Overzealous corporate security is a serious threat in itself. If a policy is too tight, it simply locks-down performance and productivity. Security policies should be balanced, to protect against threats while giving employees the freedom to do their jobs well."

Adam Gillbe comments: "A business must not be paralysed by security fears. Managers must strike a balance between granting staff the freedom to do their jobs and ensuring that powerful but appropriate security measures are in place at all levels to prevent the few who may abuse their position. In any business decision including corporate security, maximising employee productivity should always be front of mind."

In response to the security threats on the horizon, advances in user authentication will be crucial in maintaining business security. For example, areas of future development include printing electronic circuits within important documents and electronic signatures, possibly using special inks, to provide strong additional layers of document security. Electronic circuitry may also be printed directly onto the surface of the skin to create enhanced fingerprints or so-called active skin to store data or for user identification.

A vision of the future

"Combating new security threats using the knowledge and experience of expert providers such as Canon, will continue to be a top business priority"

According to the report, tomorrow's office will be less focused on desk work, with more areas for meetings and workgroups. Computer displays will be partially substituted by video visors and active contact lenses, and 3D printers and displays will be able to quickly generate 3D concept models.

As administrative tasks become more automated thanks to progress in machine intelligence, we will increasingly work away from our desks, collaborating with colleagues and with people from outside companies to achieve the task at hand. As a result, people will increasingly work away from a central office in drop-in tele-working centres. These communal working areas will feature more powerful devices including "large multifunctional print centres", which facilitate secure and productive collaboration and sharing of information between parties.

In situations where a large number of employees from various departments or companies are working side-by-side, security of data and devices will become an even greater focus. Workgroups will evolve, often comprising of people who will never physically meet.

Adam Gillbe says, "Tomorrow's office will be built on secure communications through all office devices and technologies. Innovation in smart printer technology and advanced document management solutions will deliver heightened security at all levels; from the document and the end-users themselves, to the corporate network and the storage of business critical data."

"The Office of the future will be much more fluid, interconnected and collaborative than today's. Combating new security threats using the knowledge and experience of expert providers such as Canon, will continue to be a top business priority."