Project Alias is a device that can be placed on top of any voice-connected smart home in order to prevent it from listening to users’ conversations. Alias’ speakers feed constant soft noise into the smart home that prevents it from recognizing its wake-word. Instead, users will create a customized wake-word for the Alias, which will stop the noise and active the digital assistant normally. Project Alias was created by Bjorn Karmann, a designer at Tellart, a company known for its work on iOt devices, and Tore Knudsen, an interaction designer at Topp, another design company. Currently, Project Alias is “experimental and still in development”, according to Project Alias’ profile on Github.
The aim of Project Alias is to combine smart technology with privacy security.
“Our relationship with technology is formed from how we interact with it. However, commercial smart products for the home tends to treat the user as passive consumers…with Alias we want to challenge this condition and ask what kind of “smart” we actually want in the future.”
Karmann writes on the Project Alias website. The design itself was inspired by cordyceps fungus and viruses which use insects for their own benefits. Project Alias is a “parasite for smart home systems,” Karmann writes. The top of Project Alias is a 3-D printed shell, covering a mic array, speaker, and Raspberry Pi, a handheld computer programmed with the Alias app. To create a custom wake-word, the user must say the name four times into the app while holding record. After pressing “train” and waiting for a few seconds, the Alias will have learned its new name and will not respond to its old name.
Project Alias was made after a string of cybersecurity issues concerning connected devices like smart homes. At the 2018 EEMA ISSE Conference, the European Union discussed the importance of data protection and created funding to help improve collaboration between the nations. On the consumer side, many people aren’t aware of how companies can share their data from connected devices. Only 40% of people knew that their data was being shared across multiple devices, according to a study from Clutch, a U.S market research company. “We started Project Alias to demonstrate how maker-culture can be used to redefine our relationship with smart home technologies, by delegating more power from the designers to the end users of the products,” Karmann writes. Project Alias allows the user more control and privacy in their usage of smart homes.