Digital Home Assistants are becoming the new hot topic in tech.  Apple, Google, Nest startups, everyone seems to be entering the market and are promising us a better future because let’s face it, the computer always knows the answer!


So I’ve been testing Amazon’s dot, which runs the Alexa technology.  Of all the tools out there this is the one that seems the most advanced at the moment.

And make no mistake, you can already have a lot of fun stuff with it

Of course, the minute these devices come out is the minute you start to hear about home automation because you know it’s much simpler to ask a device to turn on a light than to get off the couch to do it.  So for example without much tech skills you can easily setup something like this

Fun right? And again, do a basic Google search and you will see lots of examples on how to set something like this up.

And of course since there are opportunities in the Enterprise world you are going to see tons of examples focusing on IoT for Enterprise. Afterall, you could connect tons of sensors that you interact with through a device like this. Throw in a few buzz words like AI or Big Data and voila, we can run our nuclear power plant.

The problem is that the technology is not there yet. So if you want to run some internal PoC or even better organize a hackathon so you don’t got through the effort yourself, all good but before you push the adoption in your company, here are a few things you should consider.

A- Most of these devices will store the voice information on their system.  Yes they promise the data is safe and will never be used for anything bad without your consent but we all know that it is just a  pipe dream. Would you want your company ops and procedures be exposed that way?
For that matter, police obtained a search warrant for an Amazon Echo so we are just at the beginning of how the data has to be retained, by whom, and the legal ramifications.

B- Most of these devices also store your Wireless password on their system.  Yes sireeee...check out this page from my Amazon’s account.  Again, why do they do this is beyond me, no need for that.  Saddly enough to get them to remove that data is a total hassle, I am still working on it and have no idea if they entirely suppress the data or not.
So again, do you want some external vendor to have access to your network’s ID?  yeah...I did not think so either.

C- These devices are not good at recognizing people.  For example:  ...yup, the device will run the orders you give it but you need to figure out some other ways to secure the data transmission.  We’ve had to think about this long and hard in our SmartNotify solution, we like what we have in place but there is always room for improvement.

D- These devices are not context aware meaning they do not know who else is in the room at the same as time as you and this has two implications:  First, it can hinder what you ask for. Think I am being funny?  Are you really going to say Alexa call the police if a burglar has a gun pointed to your kid’s head?
Also, imagine if Alexa, or some other system, tells you sensitive information that you do not want other people to hear?

So are those devices useless?  Absolutely not but you need to have the right expectations and usage for them. Remember that these devices are produced by companies that sell things so the more they know about you the better product selection they can offer.

Actually think of them as super smart 2 years old, you know you can ask them to fetch information but do not trust them beyond that!

We’d love to hear your experiences with these devices, good or bad, so drop us a line ! Until next time...Alexa, turn off the camera.