Google Home Hub
Google have acknowledged the fears users have about allowing cameras in their homes by omitting one from the gadget, ruling out video calls. The built-in Google Assistant will respond to your questions about the weather, restaurants and so on via its screen. It also works as a control centre for smart devices you may have around your home – nearly 5,000 are compatible.
Amazon Echo Show
This second iteration features a 10in screen for streaming video but, at present, video calls are only possible with other Echo Show owners. Amazon boasts that the device has eight microphones and “farfield technology” so Alexa can recognise your voice while music is playing – you may not consider this a plus point.
“The data they’re collecting allows them to deliver more targeted services and to improve the quality of the services you get from the virtual assistant and the devices,” says Thomas. The level of granularity these companies get about how we live our lives by installing devices in our homes gives the manufacturers an unparalleled insight into our habits and our preferences, making it even easier to sell us their products. For Google and Facebook, that’s acting as a broker to third-party companies; for Amazon, a massive global marketplace, the company can sell to us directly.
“It’s very clear what they’re trying to do: sell you more stuff through third-party use of your own information,” says Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, author of Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life. Thomas agrees. “Once you get people used to the fact they don’t have to pick up a phone or a tablet to buy something, that will start to feed in to other ways that Amazon, particularly, as a retailer, is looking to make the way we buy things more seamless.” It’s already working: research by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, a market research firm, shows that the average American Echo owner spends $1,700 on Amazon per year, compared $1,000 for a bog standard, non Echoowning Amazon customer.
I next asked: “What happens to that recording?” Home Hub’s response? “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help. But I’m learning more every day.”
“A little dose of scepticism and caution is always a good idea, especially when a relatively new product, system or service is introduced,” says Dr Lukasz Olejnik, an independent cybersecurity and privacy researcher and adviser, who looks at the security of such smart devices. “In principle, users have full control over the voice recordings and can also request their deletion at any time. However, past examples demonstrated that Keyword determinations from voice data
This system would bypass the need to say “Alexa”, allowing Amazon to listen for information constantly – then tailor product suggestions based on what you say near its device. The patent describes how audio of you is converted to text, allowing Amazon to maintain its promise that it does not store voice recordings – but still keep hold of what you have said.
Privacy-aware personalised content for the smart home
This patent would analyse footage of your home and link that to your search history to promote more targeted marketing. If you’ve searched for gigs from a band and assistants might record in response to pretty random words.”
It’s for that reason that Deschamps-Sonsino doesn’t have a smart home hub in her house. “My name is Alexandra; every time a friend talks to me and has an Amazon Echo with Alexa in their home, it wakes up,” she says. Her friends will unplug their Amazon Echo whenever they’re not using