Monday, 10 November 2014

Amazon Echo analog data collection gets cute

Some time ago I wrote about Kinect 2 and its potential to provide deep insights into not only the games you play but what you watch, when and the real time emotions of the TV viewers in your home.

While Kinect2 is loaded with sensors to capture different channels of data, other "simpler" devices are already acting as covert data collectors in our homes. A year ago it was discovered that some LG Smart TVs were collecting viewing data without the users consent and send it back to LG servers. We should assume LG are not the only connected playing this game.  Now it appears that Amazon will be expanding it data collection activities further into the analog world.  Last week they announced the Amazon Echo a voice controlled music streaming and general home digital servant.

Echo will play music, answer questions via web searches, set reminders, compile shopping lists, check the weather all through simple voice commands. Its promotional video shows it as a cute, augment to the family, helping everyone in small ways to make their lives easier. It gives a feeling of, "how did I ever live without this!" To achieve this magic it follows the Siri, Google Now and Cortana model of sending your requests to the relevant brand's cloud for analysis and returning answers. It is an extension of Amazon's approach of always trying to help their customers. And as with its recommendations and personalised offers it comes at a price. When you are explicitly out to make a purchase consumers may be aware of the trade off of data in exchange for personalisation. But when a device sits in our living room and appears to just be a helpful music streaming, note taking, alarm clock ...thing then we may not be so aware of the trade off. Amazon have done a great job in creating a cute domestic disguise for their spy in the living room. Even the voice is lovely and unthreatening.

The Amazon Fire was the sales assistant in your pocket and despite its lack of success, we know Fire 2 will be much improved. The history of Kindle shows they just keep evolving and improving. Now Echo gives them a spy in our living rooms. I expect Echo2 will extend its capabilities to home automation. So it will increase its scope of data collection to your whole home environment. Amazon have gone from desktop, to mobile, to domestic. As they say in their copy, the more you use it the more it/we gets to know you.

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