Q1 (and some of Q2) was the quarter of ‘voice as the next communication interface’. Every other day some new company announced a project focused on using voice to control some form of automation with the underlying technology powering everything being Artificial Intelligence (AI) (the new #cool thing). For the average consumer, who just wants the lights off when it’s bedtime, things started getting confusing.
The most popular of the voice-controlled products is currently Amazon’s Alexa. Everyone is gushing. What no one is talking about is that Alexa (and most other voice-controlled products) is not secure. Alexa cannot identify my voice and responds to my 3-year-old toddlers command as it does mine. Alexa would just as easily open the doors to my home and let a burglar in if she was asked by a robber who’s managed to get on the back porch. The security issue still needs to be solved.
So who is doing what in this space? Here’s a quick primer. There are four layers in the technology stack that enables your voice to activate actions. Below are the elements of the stack and who is currently working on the products that might dominate your existence. I get a feeling they will definitely dominate things by the time my son orders his own home off Amazon
- Layer 1 aka The Interface; this has up until this point been the keyboard which was only recently just being replaced by touchscreens and auto-consoles (especially on mobile devices). Everyone agrees that voice will be the dominant interface over the next few years
- Layer 2 aka The Messenger; we use our voices in Layer 1 above to make requests of Layer 2. I’ll call Layer 2 the messenger. This messenger is currently Alexa/Echo, Siri, Cortana, IBM Watson and new messengers like Facebook’s M or (the Siri teams new product) Viv.
- Layer 3 aka The Platform; this (and Layer 4) is where the real money is. She who owns the platform, the middleware that converts the instruction into logic for the Layer 4 to implement, will ring the cash teller. There are currently three players in this space; Apple with its Homekit, Amazon’s ASK skills platform (skills being instructions that can be embedded in Alexa to carry out actions in Layer 4) and Google Weave/Brillo (the platform of choice for Google’s connected home ambitions).
- Layer 4 aka The Worker; these are Application Programming Interfaces which enable Layer 3 to communicate with device APIs (for devices like sensors, robots, thermostats etc), service APIs (that enable access to and actions on health, bank or utility data).
In a world where what you say becomes data (even when you are not addressing the device) understanding these 4 layers will be useful for laypeople (you and I) in deciding whom we want to give ownership of our data (through the devices we buy) and understanding the consequences of these decisions.
We are just at the beginning of this revolution and I always wonder what world my toddler will live in…what worries you about all this?
originally published here.