Carlos del Castillo, from El Diario.es, called me to talk about digital assistants and domesticated homes, and about the plans announced by IKEA to, become a competitor in this field, increase the diffusion of this type of technologies. Today he publishes some of my comments in his news entitled “The ‘robot house’, closer: manufacturers want to give the final boost to home automation” ( pdf ).
My opinion in this regard is clear: voice assistants are the most comfortable and natural interface to do certain things in a house, paranoia about surveillance and listening are that, paranoia fruit of a bad understanding of what it means to educate a algorithm, and the homes of the future will have a growing profusion of functions that can be accessed from a smartphone or digital assistant. Home automation is going from a specialized era, in which you had to hire a provider that did things to you and integrated technologies to be able to obtain a minimally dignified result, to another in which the user himself does without practically no preparation, resorting to increasingly simple and intuitive technologies.
Those who “oppose” that the lights of their house can be turned on with a voice command or similar functions in other appliances, and affirm that this type of comfort is not worth it should think and be reflected in those great-grandparents who do enough Decades were looking for a way to turn on the light in the lamp socket because that was where the chain that had served as a switch had always been, and they cried to the sky against an advance like the wall switch because it seemed useless nonsense. Marginal utility? Possibly, but with many of these marginal utilities attributes such as comfort, comfort and convenience are built, which are elements of progress.
With regard to monitoring and listening, I commented at the time: one thing is that technology companies, in their attempt to obtain the best possible algorithms, turn to people who listen to and label certain recordings, and another to believe that everything What you say at home is being heard by third parties who also have time and interest to comment on each other in the halls and laugh. The first is normal, it can be avoided by simply unchecking a box in the service configuration, but if we all do it, the algorithms will take longer to become successful and pleasant to use. The second is simply a stupidity of paranoids with little to do and that, moreover, have a tendency to believe the navel of the world.
Do your applications collect information about the hours at which you turn your lights on and off? Possibly, but not necessarily to sell it to a third party, but to, for example, simulate credible activity patterns when you’re not at home. Does your thermostat spy on you because it asks for the geolocation of your smartphone ? No, it simply takes care of turning on your heating when you approach your home. There is a difference between the mere search for convenience that makes a product pleasant and useful, and the supposed espionage that some believe they see. Does that mean we should give all our data and not ask questions? Of course not. But having a paranoid mentality at all times is simply paranoid, and very unproductive.
Does IKEA have much to say in this area? We talk about an environment that is still very open, and in which the key will be integration. When you start incorporating functions into your smart home, the last thing you want is to end up with a conglomerate of absurdly incompatible systems with each other and with a house that looks like a technology fair. You want smooth operation, convenience, simplicity and ease of integration. IKEA is a company with a lot to say in terms of home equipment, and with an undoubted focus on pragmatism, simplicity and attractive prices: if you know how to be open in your protocols and provide ease of use and integration, you can position yourself as an interesting competitor and give rise, thanks to that approach, to an important advance in the diffusion of this type of technologies.
This post was previously published on Enrique Dans and is republished here with permission from the author.
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