Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Smart Home Speakers Now Echo In Indian Houses

If you have not engaged in a conversation with virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home on smart speakers in your living home yet, this is the time to start one.

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lot of awareness is still required among users to understand how the speakers work.

If you have not engaged in a conversation with virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home on smart speakers in your living home yet, this is the time to start one.

Voice is the new human-compute interface and the Indian masses — be it a 3-year-old toddler or a 65-year-old grandpa — are finally going to leverage voice to interact with the devices and digitally control their lives.

Smart home speakers are today helping people perform routine activities such as making voice calls, streaming music, reading eBooks, accessing news, knowing about weather and traffic updates and much more.

Among all smart home devices, smart speakers are one of the fastest adopted technologies in India and have a 97 per cent satisfaction rate among Indian consumers, said an Accenture report this month.

smart speakers
Smart Speakers are used widely in Indian Households,Pixabay

Half of online consumers globally now use digital voice assistants, led by emerging markets such as India with 72 per cent adoption.

“It goes with our behaviour, irrespective of age that we ‘call’ someone for help. Very rarely will we type for help. With the elderly, it removes all the hassles of maneuvering through the menus, apps (while ordering food online). It makes the life simple,” Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Principal Analyst of market research firm techARC, told IANS.

When it comes to the Indian market, American online retail giant Amazon’s Echo line-up of smart speakers appeals more to the masses than its rival Internet giant Google’s home speakers.

According to market research firm International Data Corp (IDC), the smart speakers category in India, led by Amazon, grew 43 per cent in the second quarter of 2018. Amazon with its Echo range of smart speakers led the category with 59 per cent market share, closely followed by Google.

Amazon’s Echo line-up of speakers has primarily focused on building its voice ecosystem around everyday services such as booking cabs on Uber, ordering food via and streaming Amazon’s own Prime Music service.

They can be also used to make Amazon purchases, turning on lighting and songs when prompted.

“With increasing adoption and satisfaction levels of smart speaker technology in India, we will see digital voice assistants influencing the whole consumer technology and service ecosystem in a way that no other device, including smartphones, has done before,” said Aditya Chaudhuri, Managing Director and lead in Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology practice in India.

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Smart televisions are becoming a popular trend.

The Accenture survey showed that 96 per cent of Indian consumers expect their home device purchases, such as smart TVs or computers, to be based on ease of integration with their standalone smart speaker.

“We are clearly heading towards a time in the not-too-distant future when voice becomes a standard mode of technology interaction alongside established approaches like keyboard mouse and touchscreen,” said David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics.

Highlighting the effect of smart speakers in our lives, Kawoosa said that while it is enabling more smartness to the tech space, it is also raising concerns like privacy.

“The technology, however, has a lot of power to redefine our future and the way we interface with devices as well as other things in the environment,” he added.

A lot of awareness is still required among users to understand how the speakers work.

In March last year, several Echo users complained of strange, unprompted laughter as the gadgets, equipped with Alexa, were responding with a slightly unnerving laugh when owners asked it to perform the simplest of tasks.

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“This anecdotally means ‘deewaron ke bi kaan hote hain’ (even the walls have ears). This is something users have to be aware of and be a bit more cautious while dealing with such devices who simply can listen and hear you,” said Kawoosa.

To make Alexa appeal more to the Indian users, Amazon has taught her Hindi and regional language phonetics to let her pronounce names of important places, events and places. Currently, Alexa supports English with an Indian accent in the country.

(IANS)

Next Story

Is The Smart Speaker At Home Listening And Recording Your Personal Conversations?

According to Amazon, the voice utterances spoken to the device may be used in order to deliver and improve its services.

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Smart speakers
According to Amazon, the voice utterances spoken to the device may be used in order to deliver and improve its services. Pixabay

At a time when digital assistants and smart speaker at home in smart devices at home or office are talking to us like never before, some users have begun to worry: Is Alexa or Google Home listening and recording personal conversations beyond the “wake” word?

There are multiple triggers to such concerns, the latest one being a person in Germany using Amazon’s voice assistant who received 1,700 audio files from a person he never met.

A woman in the US state of Oregon was in shock last year when the Amazon Echo device at her Portland home recorded a private conversation and then shared it with one of her husband’s employees in Seattle.

Amazon later clarified that Alexa mistakenly heard a series of commands and sent the recording as a voice message to one of the husband’s employees.

The threat is very much real, with more and more Indians being hooked to the always-on and Internet-connected smart home devices.

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A hacker has already developed a method to install malware on a pre-2017 Amazon Echo that streams the microphone to any remote computer. Pixabay

In a latest Forrester report titled “Secure The Rise Of Intelligent Agents”, Amy DeMartine and Jennifer Wise argue that currently, introductory versions of intelligent agents include Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri. However, security is not part of the equation, and unless security pros get involved, the implications are more worrisome for businesses than normal human beings.

“Alexa doesn’t currently authenticate or authorise individuals who access it, leaving a company’s Alexa skills unprotected from anyone who can remember another user’s commands,” reads the report.

“A hacker has already developed a method to install malware on a pre-2017 Amazon Echo that streams the microphone to any remote computer, accesses the owner’s Amazon account, and installs ransomware,” the Forrester report added.

Apple logs and stores Siri queries but they are not associated with an Apple ID or email address, and the company deletes the association between queries and their numerical codes after six months.

Amazon and Google devices, however, save query histories until the customer deletes them, and Microsoft Cortana users must manage their own data retention preferences in the Cloud and on their devices.

According to Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, Amazon India, the threat of Alexa recording all your conversations is not real as the company has created layers of privacy protections in all of its Echo device.

“It includes a mute button involving a hardware press that electrically disconnects the microphones and cameras, clear visual indicators when utterances are being captured and streamed, as well as the ability to see and delete voice recording history for their devices,” Kumar told IANS.

Echo speakers use on-device keyword spotting to detect the “wake” word and only the “wake” word. When the “wake” word is detected, the light ring around the top of the device turns blue to indicate that Alexa is streaming audio to the Cloud.

“At any time, you can turn the microphone off by pushing the microphone button on the top of the device and this creates an electrical disconnect to the mic, which will turn on a red ring to visually indicate that the device is muted,” informed Kumar.

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According to Amazon, the voice utterances spoken to the device may be used in order to deliver and improve its services.

The users, if needed, can delete specific voice recordings associated with their accounts by going to History in Settings in the Alexa App, drilling down for a specific entry, and then tapping the delete button. You can also delete all voice recordings associated with your account for each of your Alexa-enabled products. (IANS)