The A.I. you choose might be with you for life

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There is a war going on between giants and they are fighting for the right to be in your home – maybe even in your bedroom – in order to watch, listen and collect information about you. It’s probably inevitable that you will let one of them in (or maybe a new one you have not met yet), but whatever your choice, it will likely be around for a while… like your email or your bank. It will become so entrenched in your life that it will be a huge hassle if you change your mind.

We are talking about artificial intelligence services, or AI. (Don't know about AI? Read more here: Artificial Intelligence (Semi-) Simply Defined.) The companies behind Google Assistant, Alexa and others like Siri, Cortana and Bixby, are racing to be the AI you choose. They all want to be the first set of eyes and ears you install in your home, and they are offering more and more services and conveniences to try to lure you in via their home assistants.

Let’s compare the two leaders in the AI race. Both Google Assistant and Alexa offer comparably priced devices: for Amazon, it’s the Echo and Echo Dot and for Google, it’s Google Home and the Mini. Both assistants play music, control smart home devices, make calls and search the Internet. 

According to CNET, “Over the past couple of months, Google Assistant and Alexa have engaged in a thrilling back and forth as both have continually added features. First Alexa added the ability to call other Amazon devices, then Google Assistant allowed you to call anyone, cell phones included. Alexa can now do that, too. Both Amazon and Google have added voice-based controls for compatible TVs, Google added recipe assistance, and so on.” 

In the past few weeks, Amazon upped the stakes with its release of Cloud Cam, an intelligent indoor security camera that offers a new Amazon Key service that allows in-home package deliveries without you being there. 

Many people think these devices are clever and useful, but they may not realize how profound this choice will be in their lives, and a little bit creepy (see Technology Review, “Amazon Now Provides Creepy While-You’re-Out Deliveries”) to some who think it odd that some stranger will enter their home to deliver a package from Amazon. 

According to CNBC, “It's an absolute land grab by Amazon and Google, two tech behemoths who are leading the way in artificial intelligence (AI). And there's a few reasons why. Firstly, the more devices that each voice assistant is on, the smarter it will become because it has large amounts of data available. But the most important strategic reason is that the so-called internet of things (IOT) is becoming reality. That is, an increasing number of devices are becoming connected and Amazon and Google both want to be major players, without actually making much hardware.”

So, the race is on to collect data and dominate IoT, but let’s not forget the financial boon for the company that can unify a "smart things" operating. For example, RBC predicted that Alexa could bring Amazon $10 billion of revenues by 2020. That’s only three years away.

Now, the question is who do you trust with all this personal data – and the keys to your home? Who will make sure your identity is safe? Who will be the most convenient? Who has the ability and desire to partner across platforms and services so you will not have to have multiple devices for different services? No matter what AI you choose, choose wisely! If they can get in to your home first, they have a good chance of owning you for the rest of your life. Just like people who still use @aol and @yahoo or who have kept that old account in the local bank with no mobile banking. Many will die with those same accounts. Similarly, the chances of switching your AI service will be low once it infiltrates your home and life.