Why Would You Want an Amazon Echo and Who Else is Listening


Amazon EchoHow do you feel about a device that is listening to everything that is being said in your home or office and is connected to the Internet? Especially in this age of cyber terrorism,  when we know that criminals already use tools like Facebook to target people with easy to steal and easy to sell assets.

How do you feel when Gmail bombards you with advertisements for products you have just bought or vacation location deals when you have just returned home from that place? Besides being a waste of time because you already have those things, it shows how Google (in return for giving you free email software and storage) has access to everything you write using their freeware.

So when Amazon had their massive sale on Prime Day, I thought about the Amazon Echo and wondered what I would do with it if I had one and why.

I very occasionally use Siri to save a reminder, a note, perhaps in the car to reduce the risk of having pen and paper in my hand when the lights change, or illegally using my phone because of the inherent risks, even at a traffic light. No joke, my wife has had 2 cars she was driving totalled, both while she was legally stationary at a red light. I’m not saying she could have avoided them, she couldn’t, but the people who hit our cars were certainly not paying attention.

So when I take Siri, and I have to admit it has improved in it’s ability to understand my Kiwi accent, the number of times I have said one thing and Siri has randomly rung a phone number for someone I had no desire to speak with and the fact that Siri has even randomly responded to a sound it heard, when I hadn’t even touched my phone is interesting.

I would love to have an automated home. When I got home last night from dinner in the freezing cold city it was around 6 degrees inside our house and I said to my wife how nice it would be if I could have turned on the heat pump via my phone. It has a timer, but we didn’t know when we would be home and I’m sure we could get an electrician to wire a remote switch into that circuit without having to buy a new heat pump, but I digress.

When everything I write makes a permanent footprint on the Internet and the supplier of that service has access to it all in order to ‘assist me’, I struggle with why I would want another device listening to everything I say.

Imagine living in a country like North Korea where you can be put in jail or worse for just saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, and then having a device that YOU PURCHASED providing access to every word that you said in the ‘privacy of your own home’.

Now I know that Amazon is not a spy agency, they can’t afford for this product to risk your privacy because if it did, they could go broke, but they do want to know what you are interested in and devices like these are supposed to be your personal digital assistant. I used to have an executive assistant in one of my jobs and she knew what I wanted or needed often before I did. It was awesome because I knew and trusted her. this device has to listen, even for the Alexa command to work, so technically it is listening to every word, even if in theory it is identifying most as not relevant.

The biggest issue for me with devices like this, which was also why I digressed a little with the heatpump, is that hacking or cyber crime is easy if you know how,or are prepared to pay someone to do it for you. Whether it is hacking someone’s wireless internal garage door or front door, checking Facebook to see who has a boat in the their back yard AND is on holiday overseas is really simple, because most people don’t know how to or don’t want privacy, because they don’t realise the risk.

I read a CBS story this morning about how some cheap Chinese mobiles are apparently surreptitiously sending information from the mobiles back to China using firmware that was in the phones from the factory.

You could say that Alexa can only be woken by people using the word Alexa, then it starts listening for instructions. So what is the first thing that is going to happen when you buy one of these devices? You’re going to tell your friends about it and show it off, so you are going to be using the word frequently and waking it up frequently and it will start listening.

For now I think I’d at least like to be able to use the fingerprint recognition on my phone and tap a button to turn on an appliance if I can’t be bothered standing up to do something like turn on a light. I am happy that I can have a wireless remote system with security algorithms to do that. I’m not sure I want Amazon or a hacker to be able to listen to everything said in my home and then using data mining tools to look for keywords or information that could be used by criminals, or by advertisers to send me more info I don’t want.

How about you?

 

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The future of personal computing Part One


I was reading a story in a local magazine the other day, I forced myself because I’m interested, but at first glance it was not very insightful in my humble opinion. I get so tied up trying to make the future happen that sometimes I don’t sit back and think about it in more depth and I should.

There has been a lot of talk about the Semantic Web and about sharing data on the web with lots of applications and people, lots of talk about collaborating with other people and for sure that is happening. I use Friendfeed, I’m active on Facebook, sometimes Flickr, Buzznet, LinkedIn and loads more. Twitter is the only one I really use on my Blackberry, which doesn’t suit many of the social networking applications very well.

The problem I have with putting information on web sites such as Gmail and others is can I rely on it being there forever? I love the idea of being able to access everything anywhere anytime and A3 (cubed) is one of my mantras, but ignoring security I still have fears over losing access to my data, like when recently Mucaah.com, a web site in the Netherlands where I was building a fan base disappeared overnight.

But anyway, looking to the future, the big next thing for me is LBS or Location Based Services and on any device, any time. It is about interacting with your environment and your social network in real places in real time. Sure a lot of people including myself spend a lot of time at desktops, but I plan to do much more of my computing, especially social computing at a mobile level.

I have owned a myriad of devices and still have many of them including Palm’s, A Casio Zoomer, Symbol’s, iPaq’s, iMate as well as other Smartphones from a variety of brands. I worked hard to help bring these products into mainstream and not just as clever phones but as tools to enhance the way people react in this world. To that end in the beginning of this century I wrote Unleashing the Road Warrior, Master Your Palm and master Your Pocket PC. All of these were about maximising the potential of these devices and the communications to help you work and play smarter rather than harder, another personal mantra. I don’t mean you shouldn’t play hard, but that it shouldn’t be hard work.

Hopefully my next one, whether it’s a new Blackberry, iPhone, Xperia or something else, will have a GPS chip in it and a variety of applications that will enable my mobile world. I have some major activities in mind to help develop this area of computing and turn it into a reality.

So looking a few years into the future, what is my vision? I could write a book, but like my last ones they date very quickly, so this blog will have to do. The biggest impact of these technologies will be social, after all people do business with people, they have relationships with people and those relationships and networks have far more power when they are spatially enabled.

Over the last few years applications like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Buzznet, Flickr, Twitter and more have been the most popular development in computing or social computing at least and people are loving it, but whilst many of these applications are now able to be used in a mobile environment (for example I use Twitter on my phone), the don’t have a spatial component yet.

So lets have a brief look into the near future. In one of my previous blogs I described a typical day for me on the Internet. Now lets have a bit of a look at what that same day might look like in 2013.

I wake up to the sound of my current favourite song which is being played on my iPhone V6 which is in the dock of my alarm clock. Note this is the latest model, but they have been around since 2008. I get up and go into the bathroom, taking my iPhone with me and put it into my bathroom dock which has water resistant wiring so that it doesn’t corrode from the steam of my hot shower.

While I was asleep my iPhone connected to iTunes, not through Vodafone who are still greedy in their data prices but wirelessly to my wireless router which connects to my fibre-optic internet connection with its guaranteed minimum 100Mbps connection and updated all my favourite podcasts in a matter of 30 seconds.

It automatically starts playing the podcasts in order of preference while I shower and I catch up with the latest in tech news from Channelflip and Geekbrief.

As I have breakfast I plug my iPhone into the projector pod and catch up with the latest personalised news which is displayed on the dining room wall and catch up with the things I am interested in.

I’m going to stop here for now, because it’s obvious that this is going to be longer than I intended and if I don’t post it now it will never finish or will become a book. So RSS or bookmark this blog if this is of interest to you:)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Life without Internet Part 3


While it is still clear in my mind, a couple of days ago, after losing my net connectivity for a few days, I said I would look at a typical day on the net to see how reliant I am on it. Here’s a synopsis of my connected day yesterday.

After having breakfast I went to my PC at home and posted a new photo on my Buzznet page and read the 11 comments people had left on my photos from the previous day. I checked out a few photos from my friends and left comments where appropriate.

I then posted Songwriting Tip 89 on my Twitter page after reading and replying to a few ‘tweets’ from my friends.

I checked a few emails on my GMail account which is once again up over 100 emails that I haven’t read yet. Most of them related to the Music Submission service I subscribed to last month. Several traditional radio stations as well as streaming stations have picked up my songs, so lots of follow up to do there.

Listened to a couple of songs and made a few comments in a forum at Music Forte.

I had a quick look at my MySpace messages and shared emails with a great singer in the UK who is looking for some bookings for a NZ Tour. Gave her some contacts to follow up.

Last but by far not least, I updated my podcasts on iTunes and downloaded them to my iPod so I can listen to them in my car with my Belkin FM Transmitter.

So off to work listening to my latest podcasts, including one from Podcast Tools which was debating whether you should use WordPress as your podcast host. It was fairly compelling, but for now, given that all the podcatchers including iTunes know where to find me, I’ll maintain the status quo. Great that WordPress now offers 3GB and I am pondering how to take advantage of that.

So into the office and fighting through around 50 unread emails (not spam) including lots of CV’s as I am about to employ a new sales and marketing assistant and into the day. Email is a major part of my day and I could not be efficient without it. Problem is I have to much, but once my Assistant has been employed we will be able to share the burden. My email folders are also over the corporate email limit which is a pain because I don’t have time to really cull it. I don’t think my limit is appropriate to my position, but anyway, that’s another debate.

My browser is permanently open with 5 tabs being our corporate Intranet, our website, my iGoogle page, Grab a Seat which is Air New Zealand’s page of daily specials, nothing special for me today but occassionally they have some amazing deals. I also have WordPress open to remind me to keep an eye out.

I posted a help forum on my Geekzone page after looking up the Philips Helpdesk details for my Skype phones, which started playing up after I replaced my modem. Couldn’t find out how to reset them.

Got together with the developers who are working on our Facebook application which we hope to launch in the next few weeks, which also included getting a new GeoCoder built to help with the maps that will be on the page.

Downloaded a Reference Checking Form from our Intranet which was surprisingly good.

Followed through a few stories from my iGoogle aggregator about GPS, location based news etc, including a couple of DIGGS.

Gave a recommendation to one of the pioneer leaders in the car navigation industry on my LinkedIn page.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few items because I found keeping a log too slow. But you get the idea. I am very connected.

When I got home, I once again checked MySpace messages, friend requests etc, caught up with Facebook, sent out another couple of Tweets on Twitter, caught up with some more email, put some photos onto a CD for printing that a friend emailed to me and finished with a couple of poker tournaments, one on Facebook to stay ahead of my friends in points and the other in PokerStars where I am getting my funny money up to the 7 figures so I can cash it in for some free real money. I like the idea of building up a stake of real money without ever having to have invested my own hard earned cash.

So turn off the monitor and off to bed. There was more to my day, I’m not that shallow, but this story was just about the connected parts of my day. The reality is that whether it is on my Blackberry, my home PC or my work PC, I am almost constantly active on the web. My life would be very weird if I wasn’t wired.