Last month, Dell launched a laptop that recognizes when someone is looking at the screen over the user’s shoulders and blurs the screen. If needed, it can even alert the user that someone’s peeping. The feature is part of a software called Dell Optimiser 3.0 and it has become part of Dell’s commercial line of laptops.
At the time, Ed Ward, a president at Dell Technologies, noted that hybrid work is “no longer an afterthought” and explained that Dell’s commercial portfolio will put “collaboration, intelligence, and security” at the forefront.
But Dell isn’t the only company doing this. Lenovo also has a motion-sensing technology that uses intelligent sensors to detect a user’s absence and auto-lock the display to protect the data from unwanted eyes. “We have launched several devices with AI-powered features, with many of our launches targeted at consumers and businesses,” said Dinesh Nair, director of consumer business at Lenovo India.
According to data published by the International Data Corporation in February, PC shipments in India grew by 44% in 2021. Though PC penetration in the country is lower than in the US and Europe, companies are pushing in smarter laptops in the premium range, albeit without raising their prices.
According to Vivekanand Manjeri, brand director, client solutions group at Dell Technologies, the amount of work that users do on PCs has undergone a big change. “Companies have realized that a PC is not just a device to get work done. All collaboration and productivity are driven through the PC, which earlier used to happen through face-to-face meetings,” he said.
The intelligent features are tailored toward enhancing the usability, security, and privacy of devices. For instance, a tool called Safe Shutter, added to Dell’s high-end laptops last year, can automatically close and open the webcam shutter in sync with a video-conferencing application. It aims to stop hackers from using webcams from spying on users.
Similarly, in August 2021, Lenovo announced a partnership with memory storage manufacturer Flexxon. Under this, the companies created a Solid State Storage (SSD) drive that uses an AI-enabled co-processor and machine learning (ML) algorithms to analyze cyber threats in real-time based on how data is being written on it or read of it.
Lenovo, like Dell, has also launched laptops with AI-based attention sensing solutions for the Indian market. The company has added its so-called Q-Control Intelligent Cooling technology, which uses AI to optimize battery life on a laptop.
Dell’s Manjeri said organizations currently look for endpoint security as devices are exposed to “all sorts of threats” when they leave the company’s network.
“AI-based security solutions integrated with the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) provide a default and pre-configured layer of defence against malware and attacks,” said Prateek Bhajanka, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
According to Splunk’s State of Security Report, published on 13 April, 33% of employees in India are currently working remotely as compared to 49% globally. Among Indian organizations, 70% have seen a significant increase in attacks on remote workers, as compared to 21% globally.
OEMs are hoping that AI can help mitigate at least some of these threats.
However, Bhajanka also noted that these features alone cannot be full-fledged solutions. He noted that while such features demonstrate brands’ commitment to privacy and security, a majority of these solutions work in a stand-alone or self-managed mode without any central management dashboard, which reduces the scope of customization and modification according to a company’s policies.
Enterprises, on the other hand, prefer that devices connecting to their network can be overseen and whetted by their IT teams.
“Such solutions aren’t preferred by enterprises as they can quickly turn out to be counterproductive if not tailored according to the enterprise requirements. If an enterprise isn’t planning to use the embedded AI capabilities, it will end up becoming shelfware,” said Bhajanka.
He said such integrated AI solutions can be useful for startups as it provides security by default without having to invest in new technology.