A few days ago, Amazon introduced a new service/product combination called Amazon Key. Through the integration among a video camera, selected smart locks, Amazon Prime, and your favorite delivery service, you will be able to elect to have packages containing your Amazon purchases delivered not only TO your door but INSIDE your door. Wow! The ultimate in service, particularly for those constantly on the go!
…or not. A highly statistically invalid poll I constructed and ran via my Twitter feed returned a result that I was at least a little surprised with given the largely “early adopter” and technical nature of my Twitter followers. >90% of those that replied gave a flat “No way!” response as to whether they’d trust the above combination to open their door and place packages in their dwellings.
I could pick on several aspects of this integration that respondents would be wary about — might the integration of the smart lock and cloud fail and not allow me (or anyone else) to open my door (note: WiFi issues have interfered with some of my smart home tech already, forcing me to manually switch lights on and off – how barbaric!)? Is there danger related to the delivery person, my pet, and the open door? Is the Cloud Cam always recording what is going on?
That last fear – which is more common than one might expect – has been voiced with regard to several other smart technology and/or virtual assistant instances. The success of Amazon Echo/Dot/Tap, the presence of Google Home, and the listening “ears” of Siri or Cortana on smartphones belies the concerns many people voice about The Cloud behind this tech listening to – and retaining and analyzing – everything we say or do. Facebook, which has begun to have some success with its Workplace business collaboration offering, maybe face challenges from organizations wary that their business conversations might somehow be parsed by the same engines that serve up IQ test quizzes to personal feeds (Facebook says that Workplace is an entirely separate and unconnected instance from the public service).
Personally, I don’t (want to) believe that all of these tech giants are keeping track of everything I say or do when around their devices. I also want to depend upon The Cloud to not only allow me to turn my lights on and off remotely but also not prevent me from opening my door (or having my door opened by some group of hackers). I and pretty much everyone else in tech are betting that privacy concerns are unfounded, that the providers of these capabilities actually DON’T retain or dissect (for targeting/personalization) any personal or casual conversations or videos (all providers state this to be the case), and that The Cloud will always deliver five 9s or higher uptime. But it will be very interesting to see how the mass market votes on these capabilities. Recently, Mattel canceled plans to release Aristotle (read about it here), a voice/AI-powered baby monitor, in some part due to privacy concerns from prospective parent purchasers. As such technology pervades every element of our day-to-day experiences, public acceptance and comfort will bear close monitoring.