Trend analyst, Dion Chang of Flux Trends said that 2018 was the year of voice – the year that we reached “peak screen” and began to move from screen based internet to voice based internet.
He was not wrong. Alexa, Siri and Google Home are now common place. Over 43 million US homes have access to a smart speaker. Predictions are that over half of all internet searchers will be voice based by 2020.
This will obviously have some interesting repercussions for the media / advertising feedback loop. (So much for content marketing. Adios, we will not miss you.)
Voice-era internet will also have some rather dystopian effects in terms of corporate and state surveillance (corporate surveillance to sell you more stuff through behaviour modification techniques and state surveillance to ramp up population controls). Google is currently filling for patents that will enable the tech giant to:
1) “Infer” whether Google home users are asleep or awake through environmental sensors (so that it can send you coffee ads just when you wake up, or, inform your totalitarian government that you are lazy and need your social credit score docked.).
2) Spy on your kids private conversations so that it can tattle-tale back to mommy and daddy when junior sound like he is up to no good (health warning, if you live in a communist dystopia like China this sort of “conspiracy inference” should keep mommy and daddy up at night too, just like Winston’s neighbours in 1984.)
3) “Privacy aware personalised content” – this is where Google spies on you through your smart phone camera and through your connected device speaker system. In other words, it can listen to your favourite music playing on your stereo and link that musical choice to your favourite T-shirt emblazoned with that same artist’s logo and then use that information to sell you more band merchandise. (The fact that the system can recognise logos in a live setting should raise some eyebrows, especially in a world where Google has been caught sharing user data with governments (the devil’s bargain required to do business in countries like China and India.))
However, voice-based internet is a mere stepping stone to where we are going, a fully-connected place I like to call the “Ethernet”.
The internet of the future will be invisible, everywhere, inescapable. You won’t be able to unplug or disconnect, it will just “be”, like the air you breath.
Smart dust or “motes” are miniature microelectromechanical systems with functional, invisible, sensors, cameras and wireless connectivity. Real magic pixie internet dust. And they are already arriving. (No, I don’t know what happens if you breath them in or ingest them.)
Then there are these lovely devices, built by MIT professor Dina Katabi that can sit quietly, wirelessly in a corner and track everything from breathing to walking – no wearables required – through walls too. Your insurance provider (who is, needless to say, already a strong proponent of Nudge Theory and punitive behaviour modification techniques), will surely love and embrace this idea.
This is the new invisible internet of everything: The stuff of spy and surveillance state dreams.