Alexa/ Google Home
Alexa/ Google Home
Alexa and Google Home are the smartest home operators that do everything from a short action of turning on/off the lights to a lengthy activity of reading kids a story. They are very useful as they provide many engaging and interesting activities, especially for kids, including games, books, fun activities, and even help in their homework. But some work is required to make them useful and effective. Otherwise, their value is no more than a timer installed in the kitchen.
Before introducing the devices that use artificial intelligence (AI), finding out about their functionality, their effectiveness under the given circumstances, and the privacy issues associated with them is necessary. It is pretty much straight forward to perform simple things from these devices, like setting a timer, telling a joke, or reading the weather forecast. But to perform any complicated task, one has to connect the smartphone applications to his accounts to set his preferences. After personalizing the device, one can set his news sources preferences and listen to the music from the Amazon, Google Play, or Spotify. One can also set preferences for different delivery services from different restaurants, and more. CITATION Car18 \l 1033 (Knorr, 2018)
Pros of using Alexa/ Google Home Devices
These devices are very good for the kids as well. Both Alexa and Google Home offer tons of activities for kids (known as "actions" on Google Home) from entrenched providers, including Disney and many others. The devices can be used to play games, tell jokes, read books, provide assistance for homework, and even activate special meditation to chill out the kids. Each service is being upgraded, every now and then, with a lot of new improvised and exciting stuff. In order to make effective use of these devices, one needs to figure out what exactly he wants, find out, and set up the relevant applications and understand how they work. Apart from the games, these devices can provide assistance to families in basic ways, like considering the fundamental facts, performing math (avoid cheating on homework!), notifying about a sports score, and setting a timer. CITATION Car18 \l 1033 (Knorr, 2018)
Cons and Risks associated with Alexa/Google Home Devices
With a lot of free exciting stuff, there are some hidden costs as well. A lot of skills can be added without any cost, but one still has to pay for the subscriptions and memberships of many applications, including Amazon, or Spotify, to have access to the latest features in order to maximize the effectiveness and value of his device. Many smart home products, such as thermostats, bulbs, and home security, need some extra equipment for their proper use. Though each and every service tries to attract the families, the most fundamental uses of Google Home and Alexa are very sophisticated, detail-oriented activities, like indicating the times of commute, reporting the approaching calendar events, and making grocery lists.
To prevent any unwanted or unauthorized purchases, one should modify the app settings in his devices and must make sure that his kids take his permission before including any item in the shopping cart. There is an option that allows the users of Alexa to set a pin code for its voice purchasing system. And in the Google Home app, toggling off the option of 'Pay using the Assistant’ will do the job. According to Sociologists, Artificial Intelligence has a huge impact on kids nowadays. A kid using an intelligent device must learn how it interacts, including performing orders and having bounded communication abilities. Every time a new technology is introduced in the home, parents must provide the proper guidance about its use and expectations, to their kids.
The privacy issues associated with these devices are complicated, evolving, and very serious. If anyone has a Google account, he has already accepted some online privacy risks. Both Alexa and Google Home offer some privacy options in their applications (like deleting the history), such as a user can toggle his microphone off whenever he wants. However, neither application/company is super explicit about its process of gathering, storing, and using the information/data it collects, and both technologies leave many open paths to the users' data for any third-party application developers. According to some experts, the more convenient users get to use these devices, the more Alexa and Google will endanger their privacy. For example, they could provide the sound-recording transcripts of users to a third-party developer. CITATION Car18 \l 1033 (Knorr, 2018)
These intelligent devices are, however, not safe and can be hacked. There are many options provided by these devices, which are used by hackers to get into these systems. For example, they use Alexa’s feature, "intent," which carries out the spoken instructions. The attackers may get access to the users’ accounts information by saying the keywords, “email” and “password”. CITATION Sec19 \l 1033 (Labs, 2019) Hackers often use the devices which are being compromised for their attacks. For example, hackers can communicate with a kid owning a smart toy (whose security is compromised). This shows that even safer enough things for a child could still cause harm if compromised.
Simple devices like smart bulbs can be hacked and used by the hackers to disturb and frighten the owners by turning them on and off at inconvenient times. Devices with the feature of mobility, if hacked, can provide information about home layout, which can be used by hackers for planning further actions. The point of connection of all household smart devices can also be of great use for hackers. This illustrates the fact that any device connected to the smart network can be as beneficial and vital to a hacker as it is to the real owner. CITATION Ziv19 \l 1033 (Chang, 2019)
The above-mentioned scenarios show the deep interaction of people with IoT. The possible reason for this immense involvement is the availability of an IoT device for every corner of a home, which makes the cyberattacks both possible for hackers and impressive for users. Cyberthreats have now become arguably more invasive and dangerous in smart homes than in any other place.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Chang, Z. (2019, July 30). Inside the Smart Home: IoT Device Threats and Attack Scenarios. Retrieved from Trend Micro: https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/hk-en/security/news/internet-of-things/inside-the-smart-home-iot-device-threats-and-attack-scenarios
Knorr, C. (2018, November 19). Parenting, Media, and Everything In Between. Retrieved from common sense media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/what-parents-need-to-know-before-buying-google-home-or-amazon-echo
Labs, S. R. (2019, October 24). Alexa and Google Home Devices can be Abused to Phish and Eavesdrop on Users, Research Finds. Retrieved from Trend Micro: https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/hk-en/security/news/vulnerabilities-and-exploits/alexa-and-google-home-devices-can-be-abused-to-phish-and-eavesdrop-on-users-research-finds
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