Every once in a while a random blogger will pose a question that seems dumb at first, but after some thought and further reading, turns out to hold a greater meaning. Here’s the proposition: You are an alien species seeking to invade the Earth. In order to collect information prior to the invasion, you have the opportunity for covert surveillance by taking the form of an animal. Which animal do you select?
The most popular answer is the one that I selected as well — a dog. As man’s best friend, no doubt a dog could get “inside” for deep intelligence. Other popular choices included various insects and, for whatever reason, rabbits. Apparently, rabbits make ideal spies because they can hide “underground,” but they are cuddly enough to “get close” when necessary. Maybe so, but I’m not sure if this guy is going to do any spying on anybody.
<insert fluffy rabbit photo here>
BTW — Cats were universally pooh-pooh’d as they were much too self-centered and unmotivated to perform even basic information gathering.
After a couple of weeks, a variant of this question came to mind as I read the technology headlines this morning. If you could change into the form of any common household electronic device in order to perform surveillance on every household in the U.S., what device would that be? The household thermostat would undoubtedly be a great choice.
Think about what your thermostat knows about you and your daily activities.
·It knows when you get up.
·It knows when you go to bed.
·It knows when you leave the house.
·It knows when you return.
·It knows when you are on vacation.
·It (potentially) knows where you are in the house and at what time.
·It can infer your level of activity.
The only other device that could collect this level of information would be your TV remote control!
Segue to the Nest intelligent thermostat… the Nest thermostat is the most widely popularized intelligent thermostat. Out of the box, the Nest functions like a regular thermostat — turn to the right for higher temperature, turn to the left for lower temperature.
After about a week or so, this thermostat learns your preferences and begins to automatically set the temperature in the house. The Nest also detects your presence when you come within proximity of the device. If it doesn’t detect you for a while, it will automatically set itself to away mode to save energy.
The Nest also comes with WiFi and can be managed via website or smartphone app. The Nest will also compare power usage with local weather conditions and report on energy consumption as impacted by the weather.
Pretty cool, eh? I think so too. Here’s the catch… Google just paid $3.2 billion to acquire Nest. The future according to Google seems to be coming into view. I think it goes something like this: you eat and sleep in a smart household managed by Google appliances and you drive Andriod-enabled smart cars. All these devices are connected to the Internet using Google fiber services, and all your information is recorded in Goggle data centers. Your information is then sold to advertisers in order to help them sell you more Google-connected stuff.
Going back to the original proposition, have you decided what type of animal alien invaders would use to spy on the world? In retrospect, it’s a question that only serves to distract us. After all, if you focus all your energy worrying about someone coming from outside to take your privacy and freedom, you’ll probably not notice those coming from within.
Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.