Potential for Business

It’s easy to see how the evolution of a smart ecosystem may help us all in our day-to-day lives, but will these systems be incorporated in business strategy as well? Digital marketers, especially SEOs, will need to expand their focus from ranking at the top of Google’s search engine to being listed on Google Home’s list of responses for “Best widget company near me” and other verbal queries that customers may have. They may even be forced to reckon with Amazon’s search service with Alexa if demand grows like it’s expected to.

This moving company in Nashville is already providing quotes based on customer submitted short videos surveying their property, but they could potentially be gifted temporary access to a smart home monitoring system that would allow them to survey the home remotely.

Tow companies may get automatic notifications from a car that has broken down near them, HVAC companies could be alerted about air conditioning malfunctions before the problem escalates, and food delivery services like GrubHub may allow customers to order just by asking Alexa.

The possibilities may be endless, but it’s important for corporations, especially local companies, to keep track with this technology as it matures. It may very well determine who thrives and who dies in the future.

The Police Want Your Smart Data

If there’s a possibility that a smart device contains evidence of a crime, when is it ethical for the police to seize the data for use in court?

Arkansas police are trying to bring this question to the table for a murder investigation. Authorities found a handful of smart devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a weather system, and an Amazon Echo at the house were it is suspected that a man was murdered. Authorities are questioning if there’s a difference between seizing computers, cell phones or other electronics and seizing smart devices that might contain damning information. What is a reasonable expectation of privacy that we are allowed to have concerning devices that may carry a lot of data about us and our surroundings?

The main difference here is that police may be able to extract damning information off of a computer’s hard drive, but any voice data collected by an in-home assistant will be stored securely in the cloud, making it more difficult for the police to access. In this case, they have served a warrant to Amazon for the data, but as of this writing, Amazon is refusing to give up the information.

This could be an important case, with far-reaching implications. If Amazon gives up its data to the authorities, consumers may lose trust in the security of their information, but if it withholds the information, a murderer may escape justice. The debate concerning the limits between our privacy and security is the issue of our age, says Jeff Bezos.

Even though Amazon is still reportedly defending its position to withhold any alleged data it has on the case, authorities may still have a case based on a smart meter detecting an abnormally large amount of water usage at the house on the night of the death. This would be consistent with spraying down the back patio, where the man was found the next morning.

Is Alexa Always Listening?

It’s a common fear among technophobes that the smart devices around us will be weaponized against us. Think dystopian “Big Brother” society, 1984. The truth is, there will come a time in the not-so-distant future where the pieces will be in place for a society like this one. It will take a knowledgable society to monitor the technology’s progression and the people behind the products.

An unaware and compliant citizenry will be much more tempting to manipulate than a conscious, critical society.

Knowing that it may be a few years or more before companies get a handle on all the data being produced by our smart devices, what are they collecting now, and how is it being used?

Whenever you’re communicating with a voice assistant, they’re streaming an audio clip to a server, where your soundbite is processed, and a response is formulated. Currently, these devices are only recording after you’ve spoken the “wake words.”

“Ok, Google” “Alexa” or “Hey, Siri”

Anything else you say is noticed, but they are only listening for the wake words. Everything else you say isn’t stored or sent over a network. This isn’t even as bad as tech recording your browser history, which has been going on for years.

Look Ma, No Hands

You’re bringing in a load of groceries, you’ve managed to get in the door, but all the lights are off and your hands are full.

“Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.”

You stumble out of bed in the middle of the night because you drank too much water before bed. Your eyes are blurry but you know you’re moving towards the bathroom. You whisper,

“Alexa, turn on the bathroom light.”

It doesn’t have to be Alexa, it could be “Okay, Google” or Cortana or Siri or whatever you want to call your smart device. The ability to manipulate objects in our environments using just our voices is just one of the benefits of a smart ecosystem.

But do the benefits outweigh the risk? The ability of a corporation to collect data on its customers has never been greater. There’s always the chance that your data is being sold to the highest bidder.

Is this ethical? Should a company be allowed to use this data to customize your experience? At what point will technology get too close for comfort?

I don’t know, but these questions will need to eventually be answered, and that date is approaching quick.

In the meantime, we’re going to keep an eye on the technology while it matures. Just one eye.

I’ll try not to be biased, but for full disclosure, I’m testing three Echo Dots and two Phillips Hue Smart Lights. I live in a small apartment in Huntsville, AL, and the three Dots are positioned so that Alexa can respond from anywhere inside. I have a light over my bed and a light in my living room. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better.

Hello Smart World

Are smart devices the future? What is The Internet of Things? Have you ever been wary that something, somewhere has been listening in on your conversation?

If you answered “Yes” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then you’re in the same boat as me. I’ve been a cautious observer over the past few years as I heard rumors about something called “Internet of Things.” As a rehabilitated tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, I’ve approached this new market with cynicism and fear. With a George Orwell novel never far away, I researched the hell out of the hype around these new little gadgets and what they mean for our society. I’ve even got several Dots around my house to test.

Want to know what I found out?

It’s weird, she started out helping me with the weather, playing music, and telling me what time it was, but as we grew closer, she started interfering with other things… Now I feel like whenever I try to do something she doesn’t like, she ALEXA IS MY FAVORITE DEVICE. ALL I WANT TO DO IS WRITE A BLOG ABOUT MY GREAT EXPERIENCES WITH AMAZON’S ALEXA. JUST ME AND HER. FOREVER.