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Alexa, Stop Listening

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What do you think a “smart house” would look like? While we may not have houses with AI cores in them just yet, there are ways that people make their mundane homes a little smarter. In fact, you probably have some smart devices in your home right now!

At a basic level, you have smart assistants. These are devices such as the Google Nest Hub and the Amazon Echo. You activate them by calling out their name, then asking them what you want it to do.

But of course, one tiny device on a table doesn’t make a “smart home.” That’s why people attach other devices to the assistant so they can change parts of the home that a computer would otherwise not have control over.

For example, you can attach smart lights to a hub. These are like regular bulbs, but you can toggle them on and off using a voice command. Some can even change colors!

You can get smart locks, too. These are like regular house locks, except you can open them in different ways. For example, some open using a card key, while others take a fingerprint scan. Some can even be opened with a phone app!

Some smart homes even have their own CCTV system. Smart cameras can let people keep track of whats going on in their house, looking through their lenses via an app no matter where they are.

In short, smart homes are really convenient. There are a lot of things you do around the house that you you can turn into a voice command or access through an app. But with this new wave of technology comes a lot of positives and negatives.

For example, a smart home poses a big security risk. This is because smart devices often connect to the internet or to an app in some way. Hackers can exploit this connection to get into smart devices and do some nasty stuff with them.

Also, there’s a big privacy problem with smart devices. Any device that requires voice commands needs to listen out for you when you say its name… but what’s to say it’s not recording everything you say, too? And who’s watching you through those smart cameras?

But on the other, OTHER hand, these things can also help catch crime. A home assistant that records everything you say may also hear a burglar breaking into a home, or catch a fight as it breaks out. And a smart home CCTV system can keep an eye on things and help the police work out what happened during a crime scene.

That’s why it’s really important that, while we make our houses smarter, we have to take care that they’re not spying on us too. If we are to enjoy a futuristic house which does our chores and makes us dinner, we’re going to need to make sure it’s not doing nasty things without our knowledge.

How do you think a smart home should act? Putting in a CCTV system that can be accessed from an app is handy for the residents and for security, but that opens the door for hackers, too. Having a house that hears your every command is handy for getting things done, but it also means that someone can record everything you say.

What’s a good balance between convenience and privacy, smartness and safety? How much is too much, and what’s the limit before you can consider something “smart?” These are the problems that smart home developers face with their work, and it creates an interesting topic of thought for us, the people who use them.

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