Will You Allow Amazon, Google or Apple To Control Your Home?
The cyber-battle for our homes is imminent, and our possessions hang in the balance. Although this sounds dramatic — and it is — the reality isn’t too far off. The big tech 3 have all put out home assistants (Apple's Siri; Amazon's Alexa; and Google Home) and are vying to map, coordinate, and intermediate as many aspects of our home lives as possible. But should we allow them into our homes?
Availability Doesn’t Mean Adoption
Although there are multiple sophisticated devices available on the market, there are questions to be answered and stigmas to overcome.
Amazon's Echo allows users to hail an Uber ride, order pizza from Domino’s, and play music from Amazon or curated playlists. Early adopters are expected to push Echo sales to 10 million by 2017. Amazon hopes that the recent release of Dot will strengthen developer support to secure Alexa's position in the home assistant space and concurrently in our homes.
But Amazon isn’t the only company aiming to intermediate our access to energy, heat, and water. Google and Apple too want to be go-betweens. Who will succeed and transform our homes into smart hubs?
That depends on the answers to questions about security, privacy, and private life.
Cyber-Security Is a Practical Matter
Over the past few weeks, the director of the FBI has cautioned tech-users to tape over laptop webcams and speakers. Judging by a photo posted online, it seems that Mark Zuckerberg took the warning seriously.
This coupled with the reflexive wariness about our online security will do much to undermine the tech giants’ push to connect the home. They’ll have to mollify increasing concerns about safety, privacy, and property. Just think that our smartphones and 500 million Yahoo accounts can easily be hacked. What if our house keys were a part of the loot?
Apple, Google, and Amazon will beguile these concerns in the language of savings to appeal to skeptical and unsuspecting buyers. In my view, savings is secondary to security, and our decision-making should reflect that.
Privacy on the Island
The digital landscape is fragmented, with so many companies offering similar services that do not communicate with each other. It’s tribalistic—and isolating. For example, if you buy into Apple, you have to stay with Apple. This imperils your security wholesale. The failings of one device for one company can easily translate into home-wide damages for all connected and related devices from the same, networked, company.
Where Does Private Life Begin and End?
Aside from the security and “tribal” issues, there is also a question of intrusion. These systems would be omnipresent: surveying, recording, and analyzing our every move with complex algorithms designed to learn and premeditate our needs and wants.
Rumor has it that Apple’s home assistant could feature facial recognition sensors, allowing the device to self-adjust based on user-proximity and emotional state. The prospect of voice-activated home appliances, locks, lights, and curtains is precarious yet exciting; but the facial recognition may push against the boundary of private life and might feel a little too invasive for some.
Echo is currently dominating the market. Amazon took Apple and Google by surprise; however, Echo’s immediate threat is Google Home.
As a matter of aesthetics, Amazon's big black tube is less alluring than Google Home. I’d say they’re all equally as attractive.
As a matter of capability, for now all the devices are on par too. Their potentials lie in their connectivity to a broader network. That potential is contingent upon adoption and integration. So before the issues of security, privacy, and private life are accounted for, it’s premature to call the service offered “Home Automation”.
For now, it’ll continue to be your hand on the on/off switch.
Will you invite smart home technology into your home to make your lives easier and reduce your bills? Or do you see this as nothing but a Trojan horse that enables the most powerful companies in the world to monitor what goes on behind closed doors?
Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.