February 5, 2020 7:00:55 am
Smart speakers are a great convenience. But as of late, a good chunk of smart speaker users have been worried about who is listening in to what they have to say. Adding to the worry is the fact that most users don’t enable the physical mute button, letting Amazon Echos and Google Homes listen to whatever they are saying nearby, even before the wake word is uttered.
This is the problem Paranoid hopes to tackle. Yes, as the name suggests, this is a product for those who are paranoid about their privacy. So Paranoid — available in three configurations — will try and block a smart speaker’s ability to hear conversations it is not supposed to. There is the Paranoid Home Button, a USB-powered button-pusher that physically turns on and off a smart speaker’s mute button when it hears the Paranoid wake word. The Paranoid Home Wave, meanwhile, generates noise near the speaker so that it can’t hear anything else. When the wake word is uttered these noises stop and the speaker can hear you — this is ideal for models without a physical mute button. And for the really paranoid users is the Paranoid Home Max option where you send the device to the company for an internal configuration.
Thomas Stachura, Inventor of Paranoid & CEO of Pleasant Solutions, the company behind the product, says they are ”solving a tension between technology and privacy”. Paranoid is aimed at all smart speaker brands, “but initially we are supporting several models of Amazon Echo and Google Home”. For the record, the world has over 200 million smart speakers on last count.
“Although we have done our market research and we know that Paranoid is a needed product in the market today, I can personally say that I will be one of the first customers, and I know many of my business acquaintances and friends have expressed the same. I don’t think we are much different than the rest of the population, so I think they will eagerly want it,” Stachura tells indianexpress.com in an email interaction.
You can be rest assured that Paranoid itself won’t be a cause for worry, because the tiny device cannot connect to the cloud, WiFi, Bluetooth or the internet as it lacks an antenna and other connectivity components. “It uses only on-board processing to detect the keyword. It cannot be remotely accessed by potential hackers, and will not transmit any data to the cloud,” claims a note from the company.
Cortland Davidson, Paranoid Project Manager, says there is nothing like this in the market. He says the company is “using offline machine learning as the primary detection method”. Interestingly, if the Paranoid unit needs an update these are transmitted via a music file playing on a phone or tablet.
So will smart-speaker users pay $45 for a paranoid unit? Stachura, who calls himself an “inventor who is a CEO out of necessity”, says: “I am incredibly anxious to see the volume of sales on the launch week. No matter how much market research we do, predictions remain best guesses until reality hits.” Sales in the US and Canada start on February 4.
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