Alexa, write my Ramble.
Lol…didn’t even get an answer, just the ‘kerplunk’ sound.
But Alexa did turn on my lights, give me news headlines, and is now playing my favorite background music for writing. Plus, we use the Echo Show in the kitchen to watch cooking videos and our 2-year-old granddaughter, Goldy, calls up her favorite songs to dance with.
As usual, I went a little overboard. My wife and I have different styles and sizes of Alexa all over the apartment. Like many, we shop Amazon regularly and buy at the conveniently local Amazon bookstore, which is already taking on the flavor of a neighborhood place.
More importantly though, Alexa is not a wonder device, but rather has quickly become a utility… a device we use without any self-consciousness or digital grandstanding. Yet when I heard about the latest iteration of Echo, The Spot, due in time for Christmas – shipping Dec 19 – there was no way…none…that it would ever find its way into our home with its video camera for “personal” calls, that they have been picturing as a bedside device, among other uses.
Are they kidding?
Yes, I know the Echo Show has a camera (that I cover) but the idea of putting a little device with a video camera next to your bed? Hmmmm.
Lest you think that these devices are mere passive servants, read this from Wired in February:
A Murder Case Test Alexa’s Devotion to Your Privacy
“THE AMAZON ECHO can seem like your best friend—until it betrays you…Arkansas police recently demanded that Amazon turn over information collected from a murder suspect’s Echo. Amazon’s attorneys contend that the First Amendment’s free speech protection applies to information gathered and sent by the device; as a result, Amazon argues, the police should jump through several legal hoops before the company is required to release your data.”
“The US Supreme Court, in 1967’s Katz v. United States, determined that the FBI’s use of an electronic eavesdropping device affixed to the outside of a telephone booth was an invasion of privacy, and that the material it collected could not be offered as evidence at trial. That decision demonstrates that there are limits to what the police can do in their investigations and may provide guidance for the Arkansas court in considering Amazon’s arguments.”
“Mobile phones, computer webcams and now, digital assistants also can be co-opted for nefarious purposes. These are not potential listening devices. They are listening devices—that’s why they exist.”
Your data, in all its glory, is being collected, harvested, analyzed, used… and the data exhaust we give off is unlimited.
And now Amazon wants you to give them the keys to your home. Here’s the latest from The Verge:
“Twelve years ago, Amazon launched Prime, a subscription service that entitled members to free two-day shipping in the United States…customers aren’t always home to receive their packages. So Amazon started putting lockers in nearby convenience stores and building lobbies. It even showed off drones that could drop the package right into your backyard. Today it’s taking the obvious next step and introducing a service that will allow Amazon couriers to open your front door and put your package safely inside your home.”
What does this mean?
“All this raises a big question, however: will Prime customers trust Amazon to monitor their homes around the clock, and to know when it’s okay to unlock their doors for a stranger? And will the benefit of having your packages delivered quickly and securely outweigh any concerns about privacy and security customers might have?”
Needless to say, there are already practical guides to using the service. In a piece for USA Today, Amazon is thorough:
“What if I have pets?
Amazon advises customers not to use the service if they have a pet that can gain access to the door. If you do have a pet and choose to use Key, Amazon suggests blocking them off from the front entrance to ensure proper in-home delivery.”
“What if I use a security system in my home?
Amazon said security systems should be disabled for in-home deliveries. So, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you might want to skip Key.”
And Amazon is not alone in pursuit of this new level of service. Even the NYPost reports:
“Wal-Mart, Amazon’s biggest retail rival, has similar plans. It said last month it would test delivering grocery items “straight into your fridge” with August Home, a smart lock business that Assa Abloy said it will acquire.”
Let’s be clear. Service it is. The article continues:
“’This is not an experiment for us,’ said Peter Larsen, Amazon vice president of delivery technology, in an interview. ‘This is a core part of the Amazon shopping experience from this point forward.’”
Should we worry about theft? Not just about data but about your stuff? Larsen answered:
“Larsen said theft was ‘not something that happens in practice,’ based on early tests of the Amazon Key program.
“He added that if a problem arises, ‘You can call customer service, file a claim and Amazon will work with you to make sure it’s right,’ reimbursing customers in some cases.”
‘Call customer service?’ ‘File a claim?’ ‘Some cases?’… What about the Police?
Does Amazon think theirs is the zero liability Uber accepts for criminal drivers, because they are a so-called ‘Tech Company’? Or when AirBnB ignores non-delivery or trashed property?
Have you ever contacted Google about glitches in their streaming video? I have. Their answer: we are not accountable; we are only a middle-ware product.
To be fair, Amazon has have the answer already. All the delivery people will be bonded; you will be indemnified, and the notion of “maybe” receiving a payout for getting robbed by an Amazonian is just poor wording.
To me though, the bigger issue is the way we rush to report on the story and further fuel the Digibabble that continues to grow around Amazon. Engadget speculates:
“Some might argue the service launches us ever further into a sci-fi-like existence where computers monitor and guide our every move. But as Amazon has already demonstrated with its futuristic drone delivery aspirations and super-connected, Alexa-managed homes, we’re not too far away from that reality already.”
I have commented in the past on the possibility of a drone delivering you a tube of toothpaste. Pay attention: while Bezos has you all focused on drones he opens stores, huge warehouses, and continues to lose huge sums of money delivering for free…and all power to him for it!
If you really want to learn about drones, read about how they provide vital lifesaving services in Africa delivering blood and medical supplies. UPS is a leader here. But the economics and sheer physical airspace requirements for the amount of drones needed to deliver you that tube?
BTW, on a serious positive note, one that is also highly important in understanding Amazon and its effect on the physical world, Time reported:
Amazon Created More Jobs Last Year Than 46 States
“In June, Amazon employed 382,400, up from 268,900 the year before, according to its quarterly financial reports. That translates into roughly 113,500 net new hires in the past 12 months.”
“Amazon also offers employees access to innovative programs like Career Choice, where it will pre-pay up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. Since the program’s launch, more than 10,000 employees across the globe have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, to name a few.”
I am ready to bet that skills are relevant for Amazon plans, as I can envision the services and products they might one day represent.
Bottom line: It’s up to you if you let them in.
But make no mistake…it’s not just about the digital data. Because, while Digital is Everything, Not Everything Is Digital, and no understands that better than Jeff Bezos.
Bezos has all of us looking at him while he focuses on us – the consumers, and our homes. So says Jeff Bezos:
“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.”
So worry about Drones…go on…because while you are looking up, Jeff will be in your house.
Seems to me that we all need to pay more attention to Amazon and to Jack Ma who is also opening up huge Malls. The analyst explanations for why they keep opening physical businesses get more and more convoluted, more wrapped up in technology, data, drones, VR magic…whatever.
Einstein gives us the clue:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Bezos has the keys.
And there you have it.
I can still remember when the Dellwood milkman left the glass bottles of milk outside our back door. I can’t imagine my late mother giving him the keys.
Looks like it will no longer take a Houdini to get past your lock.
What do you think?