Finally, the Google Home is now available in Canada.
For years, the US, UK, and AU have enjoyed Amazon’s Echo as their AI personal assistant at home, but Canada has been left out. Google recently dove into the market gap, offering Canadians their (better) version of the AI smart home assistant.
But I have my reservations…
What Is a Google Home?
It’s not a home. It’s more of a speaker-looking gadget that functions as an artificially intelligent personal assistant. Equipped with microphones, the device picks up your voice commands from in the house, and performs various tasks. It can set alarms and timers, manage to-do lists and shopping lists, or connect to your other smart devices and systems like lights, locks, and heating systems. You can also ask anything just as you would in a Google search, checking for weather facts or Wikipedia info.
Smart Homes Aren’t New
Smart homes are nothing new. The abilities to remotely control heating and cooling systems, doors and locks, and other elements in our homes was around in 1998 when my wife and I were building our new home. They were new then, and we were pretty progressive to consider such options back then. But, because they were new, these capabilities were fairly costly at the time. Now, with the growth in popularity, it’s much more affordable to integrate smart devices into our homes.
But Are They Really That Smart?
I’ve always been on the leading edge of technology, even to the point of being mocked and thought of as a weirdo. I’m not afraid of new technology. In fact, I love it! ... But I’m not so sure about smart homes.
There’s something about the pervasive personal access devices have in our lives and the shocking lack of software security that makes me raise an eyebrow at these untested smart home integrations.
There are some highly useful conveniences to smart homes. Remotely checking heating/cooling and alarm systems can be valuable as a home owner. Checking in on the pet cam or setting lights to switch on and off when one is away on vacation – this is valuable.
But there are some major downsides, too.
Companies that produce smart devices often don’t provide much, if any security, making the devices highly hackable. Now, the image of a hacker bent over his computer trying to get into your thermostat settings may not seem all that threatening, but making you melt in your house is hardly why he’s there.
Remember the U.S. internet crash of 2016? Millions of people couldn’t access many big sites, including Amazon and Netflix because of malware that had been inserted into the main server. Internet security companies say it happened through “hacked IoT devices — mainly compromised digital video recorders (DVRs) and IP cameras.”
Then there’s just the plain laziness, complacency, and dependence we’re sinking into. Are we really that lazy that we have to talk to a box to have our house do things for us, even turn on a light or conduct a Google search?
And are we really willing to let a private company have full access to every sight and sound in our homes? It's strange… if it were government-owned, we’d all have a loud, public fit about human rights violations. But some unaccountable private business? Yeah, we're fine with that apparently.
We’re becoming sloppy in our self-awareness – privacy is a high price to pay for convenience…
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other technology giants strictly limited their children’s access to technology.
Why do you think that is?
I think they knew that all this interconnectivity disconnects us. Social media makes us anti social, hunching us over our phones, leaving us unskilled and incapable of one-on-one, eye-to-eye, human interaction. Life is full enough of distractions without our adding more.
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier – and, in a way, to a degree, it does – but with each new advance, more and more problems arise. Like privacy invasion. Security breaches – personal and national. Disfigured spines. (You know, from all the hunching) Or “intelligent” homes flicking lights on in the middle of the night because they think they should.
What do you think?
Are smart homes and all this digital interconnectivity really that smart an idea?