Walls have ears 1

Do the walls have ears? Is your home listening in on you? It might be if you use “smart home” devices, says Jon Anderson. And they could be storing everything.

In Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, the writer gets away with murder, boasting at seating detectives above the buried body while being interviewed. Good planning and credible acting were all that were required.

In Arkansas, a murder case is winding through the courts.  Three men watched sports, got drunk, hit the hot tub and the next morning one was dead.  The homeowner is suspected of the killing that he says was an accident that happened while he was sleeping. The homeowner is also a gadget guy with many “smart” appliances attached to the internet.  One is Amazon’s Echo running the Alexa personal assistant (think Siri).

Voice activated devices are like dogs listening to hear “walkies” so they can spring into action. Only unlike dogs, these devices are also recording. Manufacturers say they only record the actual interaction (the question and answer), but honestly, who’s to say?


Nest Protect

More and more buyers are opting for “wired” homes that fully integrate alarms, media, and safety, but it’s not accessible for all price ranges.

Until now that is.

Today Nest, the creators of their gorgeous interactive programmable thermostat, launched “Protect.” It’s a full-featured smoke detector that not only works with Nest thermostats, but can send push notifications to your smartphone when something’s up. It also has a motion detector, and in case you like your bacon crispy, it can be deactivated with a gesture instead of furiously batting a spatula or tea towel at it. And it’s gorgeous, too.

Nest Protect and thermostat

Here’s the dish on how it works from Gizmodo:

Protect is packed the the gills with sensors—for smoke and CO of course, but also for heat, light, motion, and ultrasonic waves. These sensors aren’t slapped on to add shelf appeal, or turn your home into a life-streaming Big Data experiment gone wrong (see your home’s microbe count visualized!). Rather, they’re all part of a use case in which Protect is a truly heads-up device.

Nest Protect Push NotificationLet’s pretend for a second that you’ve screwed up a grilled cheese (again? You doofus!). After detecting smoke, Protect will issue a vocal warning that smoke has been detected, rather than going off at full blast. (A fascinating aside: The voice is female because, according to Nest, studies have shown that young children are more easily woken by a female voice than by an alarm). If you’re in another room, the motion sensor will sense it and beam the warning to the nearest Protect via Wi-Fi. The newly-overhauled Nest app will also send a push notification to your phone, along with the option to call emergency services. The ring of LED light at Protect’s center turns a vibrant yellow—something’s up.

Then, since it’s a false alarm, you can silence Protect by waving your hand nearby, or dismissing the push notification. If the smoke doesn’t clear up, though, the warning escalates into a full-blown horn alarm (and the LEDs flash red). After the danger has passed, Protect’s voice system lets you know everything is back to normal, and the LEDs glow green.

All this for just $129 — quite a bit cheaper than retrofitting a ranch with full-featured wired home automation. What do you think?