home assistants

Dr.Mom: On the Sidewalk

Amazon Sidewalk

Episode 1799

Doctor Mom calls in to warn that Amazon has turned on their Echo Sidewalk feature by default, and if users want to opt-out of the network, they have to go into the app settings and turn it off. Leo says that some people may feel it's an invasion of privacy, but it's really just a local network, and it doesn't carry any personal information; it just borrows some WiFi from you. 

Amazon's New Idea ... Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon Sidewalk

Episode 1750

Wanting to offer a neighborhood-based wifi network, Amazon has announced Amazon Sidewalk, which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) radios to connect everyone from house to house. You can get motion alerts from your security cameras, track your pets if they should run away, and even notifications when the mailman leaves you mail. As long as one device sees the other, it can pass along connectivity with a promised small amount of bandwidth. 

Why Haven't Home Assistants Gotten Smarter?

Assistant

Episode 1713

Old Chef Guy from Aqua Caliente

OCG wants to know if Google can make the Home Assistant voice hardware become smarter. Leo says that the entire IoT space has kinda hit a limit of what it can do, and there's been very little innovation of late. Even for Amazon Alexa and SIRI. At some point, it should increase in power and intelligence. But it has plateaued right now and voice-activated devices are a disappointment. AI isn't very smart, and it turns out it's very hard to do.

Is There an Open Source Alternative to Amazon Echo?

Amazon Echo

Episode 1595

Grant from St. Paul, MN

Grant thinks that home assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Echo are great for home automation, but he hates talking to a box and knowing that it listens to everything he says. He wants more control over what it hears and what it doesn't. Leo says that there is an open source version called OpenHab, that is highly customizable and completely internal. And it runs on Raspberry Pi. There's also Mycroft.

Is there a secure way to remotely lock or unlock my door?

Episode 1560

Sam from Torrance, CA

Sam is thinking of getting an Alexa or Google Assistant to control his door locks and is worried about security and privacy. Leo says that all assistants are roughly the same. They listen for a keyword. And there's no evidence that either Amazon or Google are spying on you. Schlage makes one that is dedicated and doesn't need the assistant, so it has a directly line which can be more secure. But any iOT device can get hacked. Bottom line is, that no door lock is perfect. It's a deterrent, a suggestion. But if the bad guy wants to get in, he can.