Your connected home knows you intimately and, soon, so will Google

Google’s business model, like many other consumer-facing companies’ business models, are changing to become far more context aware. We’re seeing that in apps that know our location and where we are going next and warn us when to leave to make it on time. That just scratches the surface and this trend can be tremendously helpful and useful if we can be sure that our personal information is not being abused or vulnerable to exploitation.

Nest cooling with leaf

Google has just announced that it intends purchasing Nest, a company that produced a connected home thermostat and smoke detector that is very well regarded in the United States. The purchase price is $3,2 billion, apparently in cash. That substantial purchase price is a pretty clear indication of the value Google places on Nest’s technology which gives its customers the ability to monitor and adjust their home environment. One of the implications of this purchase is that Google could soon have far deeper insights into what Nest’s customers are doing in their homes.

Although this is arguably a trend that is only going to grow, the question to ask is whether companies reaching into customers’ most intimate spaces have adequate protections in place to protect their personal data? Here is an one possible integration (no announcements about integrations yet so this is speculation) from Stacey Higgenbotham writing for GigaOm in her article titled “When Google closes the Nest deal, privacy issues for the internet of things will hit the big time“:

As a user of Google Now, the contextual service that tells me when to leave my house to make it to my next appointment in time, I see no reason Google couldn’t also tell my thermostat to cycle down before I actually leave. Or, based on my movements in my home, Google could start screening my calls. If I’m in the bedroom and motionless maybe Google could block the work calls from my colleague Om Malik.

Google’s business model, like many other consumer-facing companies’ business models, are changing to become far more context aware. We’re seeing that in apps that know our location and where we are going next and warn us when to leave to make it on time. That just scratches the surface and this trend can be tremendously helpful and useful if we can be sure that our personal information is not being abused or vulnerable to exploitation. As Higgenbotham points out –

Nest and the products the company builds could help provide ever more contextual clues to Google that it can use to help make your life better and even save you money. But in doing so we need to hold it, and other companies seeking to enter the connected home market, to a well-defined set of standards around data security and privacy. That means the industry and the regulators need to move past this impasse: where the internet of things is awesome but will also kill you because strangers can hack into your home and control your medical devices.

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