Alexa is a voice-activated, cloud-based virtual assistant, similar to Siri on Apple devices, or Google Assistant. Alexa is an umbrella name for the cloud-based functionality that responds to verbal commands. Alexa uses artificial intelligence to answer questions or control smart devices, and has a r…
- IoT Unravelled Part 1: It’s a Mess… But Then There’s Home Assistant
- IoT Unravelled Part 2: IP Addresses, Network, Zigbee, Custom Firmware and Soldering
- IoT Unravelled Part 3: Security
- IoT Unravelled Part 4: Making it All Work for Humans
- IoT Unravelled Part 5: Practical Use Case Videos
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When the world’s largest tech companies are dangling “cheap” useful devices in front of us, it’s worth keeping in mind that the true cost of smart speakers is our data, privacy, and loyalty.
If we decide to treat people as sensors, and not as things to be sensed – if we observe Kant’s injunction that humans should be “treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else” – then we can modify the smart city to gather information about the things and share that information with the people.
Imagine a human-centred smart city that knows everything it can about things. It knows how many seats are free on every bus, it knows how busy every road is, it knows where there are short-hire bikes available and where there are potholes. It knows how much footfall every metre of pavement receives, and which public loos are busiest.
Try imagining a mobile device that gathers data about its user, but doesn’t ever share that data with anyone, ever
What it doesn’t know is anything about individuals in the city. It knows about things, not people. All of that data is tremendously useful to the city’s planners and administrators, of course, as a way of planning and optimising services, infrastructure and future building.
Now, equipped with your device, you are prepared to be a sensor, rather than a thing to be sensed. As you move around your smart city, the things around you stream data about their capabilities, limitations, prices, uses and nature. Want to find a loo? Your device not only knows which ones are free, but also what time you habitually pee, and whether or not you’ve been drinking a lot of water and might need one. Want a free seat on a bus? Likewise, the device will tell you where there is one free. When you stand at a bus-stop, your presence, but not your identity, is registered, so that the transit system can adjust the vehicles and routes.
Doctorow also recorded a version of this piece:
2019 was the “I Told You So” year for privacy advocates and voice assistants: the year in which every company that wanted you to trust them to put an always-on mic in the most intimate places in your home was revealed to have allowed thousands of low-waged contractors to listen in on millions of clips, many of them accidentally recorded: first it was Amazon (and again!), then Google, then Apple, then Microsoft.
Many of us are resigned to – and perhaps even fine with – the idea that our employer can scan our emails or keep track of how much time we waste on social media. But we are entering a new world of workplace surveillance in which we are watched 24/7 and every move is scrutinised. And things are only going to get more intrusive as corporations treat us less like human beings and more like machines. Last year, for example, Amazon patented an “ultrasonic bracelet” to be worn by workers to “monitor performance of assigned tasks”. Meanwhile, companies are implanting chips under workers’ skin and China is monitoring employees’ brain waves. It won’t be long until we have all been implanted with chips that keep track of our productivity and trigger a self-combustion protocol when we are no longer deemed useful to our AI overlords. But, hey, while the future may look bleak, at least there is consistently prepared pizza to look forward to.
One of the challenges that really intrigues me is when someone else gives your consent for something without either asking or often even realising. In some ways shadow profiles touches upon this, but the worst is DNA tests:
What do we do when other family members list you as related when they do family tree ancestry stuff? My large extended family lists us and I literally don't even have their phone numbers. Never talk to them.
— RelentlessNRecovery (@RelentlessNReco) September 23, 2019
It is also kind of funny how in education the discussions seems to be about banning smartphones. However, as you touch upon with microphones and wearables, we will not even know what is and is not being captured. A part of me thinks that as a teacher you need to be mindful of this.
What concerns me most are those who feel that we should make the capturing of biometric data standard.
We live in wicked times.
Google has big plans to build a Jetsonian smart city on the waterfront, and Torontonians have strong opinions about it: is it the solution to all our problems or the end of the world as we know it? We asked 18 super-smart people to tell us what they think
Essays By Joe Berridge, Michael Bryant, Ann Cavoukian, Jan De Silva, Dan Doctoroff, Cory Doctorow, Richard Florida, Ken Greenberg, Alexander Josephson, Jennifer Keesmaat, Bruce Kuwabara, Mohamed Lachemi, Kwame Mckenzie, Gord Perks, Robert Prichard, Yung Wu, Bianca Wylie And Shoshana Zuboff
Our emotions are being manipulated, hacked and shared like never before. So what does this mean for their future, our relationships and the technology that’s reading them?
The social media tools that teens use are direct descendants of the hangouts and other public places in which teens have been congregating for decades. What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now. Teens flock to them knowing they can socialize with friends and become better acquainted with classmates and peers they don’t know as well. They embrace social media for roughly the same reasons earlier generations of teens attended sock hops, congregated in parking lots, colonized people’s front stoops, or tied up the phone lines for hours on end. Teens want to gossip, flirt, complain, compare notes, share passions, emote, and joke around. They want to be able to talk among themselves—even if that means going online.(Page 20-21)
This episode also raises the question about the internet of things and the potential to gather emotional data. This is a topic touched upon by Ben Williamson in his book Big Data in Education.
As organisations gather huge stockpiles of data, they seem to grow increasingly tightfisted with their data and insights. They’ve found a gold mine – why share? The problem with this line of reasoning is that it quickly dead-ends in a world where the only conceivable use of data is as zero-sum competitive advantage: “I know something you don’t.”
Amazon’s Ring doorbells are surveillance devices that conduct round-the-clock video surveillance of your neighborhood, automatically flagging “suspicious” faces and bombarding you and your neighbors with alerts using an app called “Neighbors”; it’s a marriage of Amazon’s Internet of Things platform with its “Rekognition” facial recognition tool, which it has marketed aggressively to cities, law enforcement, ICE, businesses and everyday customers as a security measure that can help ID bad guys, despite the absence of a database identifying which faces belong to good people and which faces belong to bad people.
Our guide recommends some tools you can use to spot internet-connected devices. But keep an eye out for random bottles of Mountain Dew, too.
Of course, foldable displays won’t be limited to devices we carry in our pockets. We’re going to see them pretty much everywhere — round our wrists, as part of our clothes, and eventually as ‘wallpaper’ in our houses. Eventually there won’t be a surface on the planet that won’t also potentially be a screen.
- What if everyone was talking at once? What would that look and sound like?
- What about the conversations that may not be appropriate for speaking out loud in public or in private.
My other question is uses beyond the novel. Yeah I can ask Google a question or play a track from The National, but what else? I am really interested in what particular workflows you develop in conjunction with your smart things.
NOTE: I have written this response in the open web and respect your desire to restrict such conversations to paying subscribers, which I am not one, sorry.
Just this month, the insurance company United Healthcare began partnering with employers to offer free Apple Watches to those who hit certain fitness goals. Insurers might also offer benefits to residents whose homes prove their fitness or brand loyalty—and punish those who don’t. Health insurers could use data from the kitchen as a proxy for eating habits, and adjust their rates accordingly. Landlords could use occupancy sensors to see who comes and goes, or watch for photo evidence of pets. Life-insurance companies could penalize smokers caught on camera. Online and in person, consumers are often asked to weigh privacy against convenience and personalization: A kickback on utilities or insurance payments may thumb the scales in Google’s favor.
To badly paraphrase Tolstoy: Secure products are all alike; every not-secure product is not secure in its own way.