With the space in between the home and the office still an untapped market – autonomous cars being some way off – the fight for the home intensifies. Google and Amazon in particular seem locked in combat to control our living space.
Whilst the ‘hub’ of activities is the smart speaker, Amazon is now heading in a direction that is either brilliant or baffling. The company has just bought Eero, a company that no-one had heard of until the announcement.
Eero is a router manufacturer that specialises in getting WiFi into corners that other routers cannot reach.
Owning the router that controls all the devices in your house seems smart, even brilliant. It means that Amazon knows what you watch on TV, on your devices, who is delivering parcels to you, what time you go to bed, when you exercise, when you walk the dog, how many rooms you have, how many kids you have and, well, you could go on for a long time.
Brilliant. But only in a world where privacy and data ownership is not becoming the issue of our time and one which has become about extremes. And, sadly, we now live in a world of extremes – you either really like something or really dislike something. There seems to be no middle ground.
Governments tend, for really good (representing the people) reasons and really bad (political) reasons, to side with the ‘victims’ and legislate against the ‘bullies’. This makes sense, until Governments identify a breach of privacy and misuse of data as bullying.
At this point, tech companies who live on our data face a real struggle. Facebook looks like it might settle a multi-billion dollar fine over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The backlash against selling data to advertisers is already catching on (even though newbie advertising company Amazon just posted record advertising revenues). The threat of data breaches is already slowing progress towards a digital world, even in areas such as healthcare.
Protecting customers’ data is becoming sexy and a differentiator. Cisco announced that it wants a GDPR type law introduced in the US, where such laws are the most relaxed – for the moment.
Just suppose the backlash is as extreme as it could be.
Just suppose that laws are enacted that make gathering data without permission a crime, with huge fines involved for violation, even prison. No large organisation is going to carry on doing it for long. They will have to get their marketing teams on the case and try and figure out how to get their customers to opt in. Which they will not, at least not easily.
If it goes that far then any company that makes its living from our data will face some very tough challenges.
And if they have tough challenges, imagine the investment funds that are founded on the principle that ‘whoever controls data, controls the world’.
Soon, that might be the customer not the company.
And if you are in any doubt about the enormity of the data that can be harvested from our homes, here is the video we posted from Friday Futures.