The Mount Everest of Behavioral Analytics: Amazon Echo

By now you have heard chatter about Amazon’s new Echo device, and there is a somewhat low-key video you can watch to see how Amazon thinks of this device in the home on youtube.  The best quick read I have seen thus far on just why Amazon wants to be the portal in answering your questions and tracking your home habits is an article written by Patrick Moorhead at Forbes, entitled Amazon Echo: What you need to consider before buying.  Multiple companies are vying to be the entry point for your behavioral interaction at home: Nest, Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and many others. All of them want to know what you do, what you buy, and how you behave at home. Simply put, your physical home space is the Mount Everest yet to be conquered. Companies know all about your behavior on-line, but this physical world is the one missing territory in their attempts to model our desires, our needs, and how we will respond to all possible stimuli. Mediocracy is all about predicting our future behavior, and Echo is one example of the many competing products working hard to be the digital-physical glue in our lives. I have written often about this frontier, and about the fact that companies are desperate to cross the barrier, whether with sensors (computer vision) or with direct human-robot interaction (Echo). The interesting pattern we ought to look for next: just how will regulation or social pressure define boundaries of behavior mining, storage and exploitation? When government does subpoena someone’s Echo diary because they have an unhealthy interest in, say, revolution, will the public outcry regarding NSA surveillance connect the dots to ever greater opportunities for such surveillance, thanks to convenience technologies?  Unfortunately, these hard issues do not rise to the level of national debate until some egregious mishandling of private information occurs. Only after we’re scarred do we even begin to pay attention to the road we’re traveling.

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