The presentation yesterday of Essential Phone, the new project of Andy Rubin, made clear many of the ambitions of a company in which there is a promising message that, yes, will have to be endorsed by its products and its services.
The Essential Phone is based on the search for a less closed experience, which wants to prevent you from changing your mobile phone and totally lacking bloatware, but there is a more budding product with another very different bet. It is Essential Home , a competitor of Amazon Echo or Google Home that has as differential factor the search and rescue of our almost disappeared privacy.
Maybe you do not need an Amazon Echo in your life.
We are accustomed to see how most of the technological products that appear in recent times boast of that ability to anticipate our desires and needs. That automated servitude has a price, of course: our privacy.
Solutions like Amazon Echo, Google Home or the recent Nest Cam IQ are nourished by such vigilance (whether patent or not) and that active listening to be always prepared and willing. The companies that develop these products swear and perjurer that the data collected are anonymous and can not be associated with a particular user, but the truth is that it is almost impossible to verify if this is true.
It is in these products that once again that delicate balance between privacy and comfort arises. How much are you willing to sacrifice? How much data and personal information will you give in order to enjoy those capabilities? Given how much they collect these products and their associated services to meet your needs, maybe it is too much. That’s where Essential Home wants to go.
Local computing instead of cloud computing
Dwipal Desai, one of Essential’s engineers, spoke about a different approach to Essential Home, a device that wants to give us back some of the lost ground in privacy and that will do so thanks to a significant difference with its competitors …
We have designed Essential Home to run most things on the device itself, so most of the data will remain in your home, which is where they belong. Essential Home will communicate with your devices on your home network whenever possible to limit sending data to the cloud
Do we believe it? We want to do it, of course, but for now this is more a statement of intent than anything else. Can a device by itself offer all that attendees offer such as Google Now, Alexa or Cortana, which are fueled by millions of data? It seems unlikely, but we have some examples almost forgotten.
You may also like to read: When Amazon Echo records an alleged murder, the privacy debate opens again
Picasa as an example of how the tables have changed
For example, Picasa, that photo management program that Google abandoned in early 2016 to focus on Google Photos. The new service is endowed with an amazing “intelligence”, one that allows us to search for photos in our library by simply mentioning a name, place or object. Google Photos is literally – at least for some – frightening.
It’s a fantastic feature that simplifies the search for photos, but one that was not really that far from Picasa years ago, when this program was able to recognize faces in our local photo library. No connection to the cloud or Google. Without having to upload anything to any place.
In 2009! With what we have advanced in hardware and software, do you believe that a current version of Picasa could not do the same thing that Google Photos does locally? Of course I do!
But of course, with Picasa one did not give data to Google. The company did not even know how you used the program, so the “return on investment” was much more limited. And that is the reality for many other services that could probably work locally and that do not because simply that would prevent them from collecting data – whatever may be done with that data later.
Essential Home promises to return to that more local and less “cloudy” approach, and may allow us to actually recover some of that lost privacy. It is worth a try, so we can only wish you the best of luck to Essential. That and that the message that its responsible transmitters goes beyond the good intentions. We’ll be alert!