Insecurity of things: Is Alexa a double agent?

Article By : Junko Yoshida

Despite being intrigued with Amazon Echo and Google Home, *EE Times'* Junko Yoshida remains on the fence when it comes to an actual purchase.

Maybe it’s just me. The idea of having “machines” constantly listening to me in the privacy of my living room, bedroom, kitchen or—God forbid—the bathroom? It freaks me out.

[Nvidia Spot (cr)]
__Figure 1:__ *Introducing Nvidia Spot*

When Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduced in his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show something called “Nvidia Spot,” a small artificial intelligence microphone designed to “extend intelligent control throughout the house,” as he put it, I did a double-take. “Did he just say ‘Nvidia Spy?’”

At CES, we also learned that Alexa isn’t just for the Amazon Echo anymore. With the help of Alexa Voice Services, any developer can now add the Amazon virtual assistant to their device; Google's letting developers do the same with Google Assistant.

In short, even if I don't want a microphone eavesdropping on me, I may no longer have a choice.

[Google Home conversation action (cr)]
__Figure 2:__ *Building blocks of Google’s Conversation Action (Source: Google)*

This is the new norm the industry was trumpeting at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Hardware suppliers, software designers and service providers are enamoured with the power of AI. The next big thing is AI data centres fully equipped to collect, learn and analyse data, transforming all that eavesdropped data into “information.”

Who am I to judge?

As I reported from the show floor, we face a future in which convenience trumps privacy and the suspension of disbelief breeds insecurity. It struck me that practically everyone is willing to go along without much questioning the consequences.

Who am I to judge? The new generation of kids, as I learned recently, don’t memorise the multiplication tables in school. Why bother when you can just Google: “Hey Google, what’s 5 times 7?” If I were a 7-year-old today, I might consider Google Home my best friend.

Next: Survey says: Voice's starring role is here »

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