Shhh! The IoT is Listening!

Without question, voice control is the hottest thing in audio. Tomorrow it will be something else. Today it is voice control. In particular, Amazon's Alexa is all the rage and is poised to appear in phones, cars, refrigerators, and pretty much anything else that is powered by electrons. But Alexa is really just the gateway drug to the Internet of Things.

Alexa is everywhere. Most recently, our fearless and intrepid S&V staff reported that Yamaha is embracing Alexa. In particular, Yamaha's MusicCast line will get a free firmware update next fall that will allow the devices to use Alexa's voice control.

Pretty cool, right? With a quick and painless firmware update, you can start conversing with your home audio system. Also, with the same update, your home audio system can start listening in on your conversations. Hmmm. And, do you really want to start opening your wallet for the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Companies are eager to roll out voice control and develop the smarthome IoT market, but at the same time, consumers are increasingly nervous about IoT. At least according to a recent Gartner survey, two-thirds of consumers are concerned about the privacy issues the technology may bring. They may have read the news reports of cloud recordings from voice controllers being used in court trials, and how voice controllers can be randomly triggered, for example, by words spoken in TV shows, to start listening in.

The fact is, voice control and the larger market of the IoT hasn't yet overcome the hurdles of suspicion and inertia that at least initially impede widespread acceptance of any new technology. Most consumers just don't see the benefit that the extra complexity, and probably extra subscription costs, would bring to their everyday lives.

My prediction is this: voice control will quickly succeed because, sadly, most people gladly sacrifice privacy for convenience (how many times have your changed your passwords this year?). But IoT will prove to be a slog because convenience is nice, but only if it's free or really cheap. IoT adds to the initial cost of products, and any meaningful utility will entail substantial subscriptions costs. For example, a home security monitoring company provides a meaningful service, but at a nontrivial cost. Similarly, to survive financially, any meaningful IoT service will cost extra. That cost, for most people, will be a deal breaker. Would you pay real money for a cloud-based system that pauses your dishwasher when the phone rings? Me neither.

antakar's picture

These days CPUs, and GPUs are strong enough to process the voice and find patterns.
We have SSDs and lots of RAM.

Why cant we just purchase the software and run it locally? Downloading the command packages as we see fit, ie.: Download TV package, download Hi-Fi voice package, car package etc.

Safe, everything stored on local clous, as NAS could be used for the external communication, and process this stuff. Or a dedicated desktop.