The rapid expansion of connected smart home devices is paralleled by growing privacy and security concerns on data held in the cloud. The France-based voice assistant company, Snips, points to blockchain technology as a potential alternative in the field. Earlier this week, Snips launched “Snips AIR” which the company describes as a “network of devices collaborating to form a mesh of AI assistants.”
In the case of Google Home and Amazon Alexa, user data collected by the device is stored and centralized in some form of the cloud overseen by the company. In some cases, the privacy concerns related to this cloud data result in entire features being disabled.
What Snips’ offers is software built to run entirely on the device itself, making the user information decentralized and unknown to Snips. Without relying on the cloud, the company reduces the risk of a data breach and grants significantly higher privacy protection for users.
Skepticism over the security of connected home-speakers escalated after an incident earlier this year in which an Alexa-enabled device recorded a private conversation between a couple and sent the recording to one of their contacts. The potentially invasive nature of a smart speaker is likely to deter some users from comfortably allowing them into their daily lives.
The argument for centralized data collection rests on the idea that the companies need more information about their consumers in order to improve the user experience. The platforms “learn” from the collected data through machine learning—so how does Snips make up for this? That’s where blockchain comes in.
Blockchain and AI
Snips launched a cryptographic token called Air Token under an initial coin offering to incentivize developers to continually improve the platform.
How it works: Customers are paid when they provide encrypted voice data that helps train a machine learning model through a decentralized network. Developers then utilize the data and create new machine learning models for apps and publish them on the Snips AIR platform–all without ever exposing customers’ personal data.
The company claims to have 14,000 developers already on the platform building apps that utilize their voice assistant.
Co-founder and CEO of Snips, Dr. Rand Hindi stated in an interview that “plans for its new consumer product are well advanced, and will be designed from the beginning to be improved over time using a combination of decentralized machine learning and cryptography.”
Despite the potential security risks, the market for smart home devices is only growing as they become increasingly prevalent across households. A Bain & Company report from earlier this year claims that the market for the Internet of Things could double in the next three years.
Founded in 2013, Snips has raised over $24 million dollars in investor funding and operates internationally in both Paris and New York. The race to provide the next technology synonymous with smart home automation is underway and Snips is attempting to stake its place.