Amazon and Google are making waves with Alexa and the Google Home: two devices created to make homes more efficient. What does this mean for the future of technology in our homes?
This past fall when I moved into my apartment, I was thrilled when my roommate Nat unpacked one of her gadgets she had gotten for our pad: an Amazon Alexa. I had heard a lot about the home device and all of her abilities, and I was excited to be able to see what she was capable of. With her quick responses and various different abilities (she’ll tell you jokes if you ask), Alexa is truly like your own personal assistant. Now, we don’t start our morning without asking Alexa what the weather is for the day, asking her to set a timer for our breakfast, or telling her to turn on our favorite playlist to get us pumped up for the day.
Smart home devices are just more examples of how integrated technology has become into our lives. While some people may find them unnecessary, devices like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa truly have changed the way our homes operate and have made them significantly more modern and efficient. Home devices even allow users to buy things directly from the device. This is much more complex than simply buying music or movies like you would on iTunes or On Demand tv services- consumers can order products directly from Amazon through Alexa simply by asking her to place the order. In fact, according to a survey conducted this past February, purchases made on Amazon Alexa and Google Homes are expected to jump from $2 billion to $40 billion in the next four years alone.
With such high projections in future sales, it’s no wonder that other tech giants also want to get in on the action. Although Amazon and Google currently dominate the home assistant sphere (with Alexa currently holding the position as the most popular option), Apple recently released its HomePod, and Microsoft’s Cortana also recently entered the arena.
However, while these personal assistant devices can help keep your life more organized, like all technology, they have a dark side as well.
Last February, smart devices made history when police ordered Amazon to hand over recordings from an Amazon Echo that had been in the home of James Andrew Bates, an Arkansas man who had been charged with murdering another local at Bates’ home. As outlined in its fine print, Amazon stores previous commands to make it easier for users to repeat them at a later time, but the user has the ability to delete stored commands whenever they want.
“While it’s unlikely anyone asked, ‘Alexa, how do I hide a body?’ the records might contain other clues about what happened at Bates’ house that night,” said Jeff John Roberts in his Fortune article.
With this case, personal assistants and smart devices once again opened the debate on social listening and the extent to which companies honor consumer privacy rights. Throughout the course of the past year, there have already been several lawsuits and other complaints that have gone viral due to the controversial nature of technology in our lives. With advertisements and social media becoming more personalized than ever, it was only a matter of time before the same concerns made their way to home devices.
Despite some controversial features, it is clear that smart devices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, according to a study done by OC&C Strategy Consultants, some researchers believe that home assistants will become just as normal as flat screen TVs in future homes. For me, our Alexa in my apartment has become essential to how my roommates and I go about our days. We even joke that she is our fourth roommate. For others, the choice of buying a home assistant may not be so simple.
Want to hear more about smart devices? Read about some of the other smart home devices and what they can mean for your home. What are your thoughts on Amazon and Google and their home helpers? Do you think the benefits outweigh the possible negative aspects? Tell us what you think.
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