Voice-Enabled Devices May Compromise Privacy in IoT Ecosystems


Smart speakers like Amazon Echo have shown sale success lately, the speaker does not only provide entertainment and voice recognition, but also serve as sensor hubs in homes / Photo by Flickr.com


Devices that are “always listening” such as virtual assistants you can find in a lot of homes nowadays have seen steady development in the past several years. In the rising IoT industry, voice-enabled everything may soon become a common thing, but is the privacy of users still protected or compromised?

Reported at EETimes, IHS Markit estimated that more than 5 billion consumers will use devices with digital assistants by the end of 2018. The device likely to contribute to that growth is the smart speakers that are seeing commercial success.

Smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home, and Sonos One have shown sale success lately, according to Mike Knapp, vice president of investor relations and communications at Knowles Corporation.

Aside from entertainment and voice recognition, smart speakers may have the potential to serve as sensor hubs in homes.

“With direct connections to mesh networks to control thermostats, window shades, and lights, new generations of smart speakers will include a diversity of sensors,” said Paul Schreier, senior director of product marketing at TDK InvenSense.

The diversity of sensors available allows smart speakers to become “aware” of its surroundings and to constantly gather relevant data, such as temperature and air pressure. Advanced software installed in these gadgets may even permit other functions like turning on certain appliances through the use of voice commands.

For safety and security, many voice-enabled devices have been integrated with detection systems to record certain events, such as glass breaking, dogs barking, and even outright burglary. Advanced software and sensors allow them to detect changes in pressure, temperature, and sound.

However, there is a major concern about privacy in voice-enabled devices. Since the gadgets utilize voice, the microphone is always active 24 hours a day. Experts advise consumers to demand how the technologies in these gadgets work and if they feature any voice data encryption. Other ways to protect privacy include the development of unhackable hardware and the implementation of policies on companies that control the voice user data.