Here at Connected World and Constructech, we have followed patent filings for years, and they often tell the tale of what the executives have in mind for the future of companies, brands, and technologies. Such is the case for Amazon that wants more eyes and ears into a home.
The company has filed a patent for an autonomously motile device that may be controlled by speech received by a user device—which was published on February 16. Sounds a bit like Alexa, right? And we all know Amazon has claimed more than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold. Well, this patent gets a little bit different.
The first speech-processing system learns the audio and command—but it appears the company is looking to take it a step further, as a second speech-processing system may also execute a command by the autonomously motile device. The patent suggests, “A network connection is established between the user device and the autonomously motile device, and a device manager authorizes execution of the command.” Basically, this device would give Alexa legs to move about the house.
While there are certainly huge opportunities with technology such as this—think the futuristic life of George Jetson—there are also privacy implications. Tim Lindner predicts we will be reading about privacy violations from this new device in a couple of years.
And, of course, this comes on the heels of Amazon announcing it has entered into a merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire iRobot—which provides clean robots that roam the house. Last September, key advocates against what they were calling abusive surveillance and big tech monopolies sent a letter to the FTC urging them to challenge the purchase.
In the letter, the organizations compare it to the 2018 acquisition of Ring, which provides smart doorbell cameras. The organizations suggest the acquisitions of Ring and now iRobot will harm competition while also endangering privacy rights. They also suggest it will fuel a surveillance network that profiles and criminalizes communities of color.
The bottomline is with this patent we will have no more private spaces in the home. Amazon could gain access to even more intimate facts about our most private spaces. What’s more, once the data is collected there is no way to prevent its use for even more intrusive surveillance as well as other anti-competitive behaviors.
With both the patent and acquisition, we have a better glimpse into Amazon’s plans for the future—and it is clearly eyeing the smart-home market, all while collecting data about our every move in our home. Now, the question remains: How will Amazon use that data?
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