Google, with the announcement of its new multi-billion dollar purchase, has expressed its desire to make a more permanent Nest inside of peoples homes. The new $3.2 billion dollar purchase of appliance maker Nest by Google, is being touted for all of the truly impressive future possibilities it allows for. The “smart” thermostat maker Nest has been a successful and popular home device maker for some time now. Some stakeholders, however, are viewing the recent marriage between Google and Nest with mixed emotions, concern being chief of them among consumers.
While the deal provides endless possibilities for the internet giant Google, along with a significant capital infusion for Nest, the public is left to decide whether they really want to be any more intimate in their relationship with the tech giant. Nest is famous for creating a smart thermostat that can “learn” the behavior patterns of the individual and adjust itself accordingly. The Nest thermostat learns when a person usually comes home, what temperature they prefer, along with other data patterns, and then adjust its settings to suit the desires of the user. It is easy to see how just this data alone could be monetized to great extent by the internet wizards of Google. Many are asking however, where Google’s data collection line will be drawn when, with its new purchase of Nest, there will be so much juicy data sitting just beyond its virtual fingertips, kept out of reach only by some silly little privacy policies that Nest had in place prior to the purchase.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept straight out of an Orwell novel, without the fiction attached to it. Although science fiction has been espousing such an idea for some time now, the IoT is now being discussed in terms of supporting infrastructure, policy, and being invested in heavily.
Bill Joy, computer scientist and founder of Sun Microsystems, brought the topic to the forefront in what he called D2D (device to device) communication. Bill is also known for his essay “Why the future doesn’t need us,” written in 2000, in which he expresses concern for a future in which humanity is endangered by technological advancements. In his essay, Bill takes what some call a “neo-Luddite” position (one opposing many types of advanced technology) while arguing that robots are on track to replace the need for much of humanity, and advancements in genetic engineering along with nanotechnology could additionally threaten human existence.
The specific topic of IoT however started to cement itself in the industry’s collective mind after a statement made by Kevin Ashton in 2009. In an article for the RFID journal Ashton stated, “Today computers – and, therefore, the Internet – are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings … Conventional diagrams of the Internet … leave out the most numerous and important routers of all – people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy – all of which means they are not very good at capturing data bout things in the real world. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything … The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.”
Google is already heavily invested in the IoT, also known as the Thingternet, with its driverless cars, futuristic robots and heavy internet presence, however the behavioral data which might become available through its recent acquisition of Nest could make it a nearly permanent, silent, all-seeing presence in the lives of many. Whatever the case, the recent multi-billion dollar purchase shows Google’s desire to make a nice cozy Nest right inside people’s homes. The future will ultimately show just what this means for users and their privacy.
By Daniel Worku