Edge devices can also bundle and anonymize data before going into the cloud

Edge devices can also bundle and anonymize data before going into the cloud

There will soon be new alternatives for the home that are supposed to offer better data protection.

Around half of the voice assistants in households today come from Amazon and Google. According to analyst Canalys, the total number of these devices worldwide is expected to rise from the current 100 million to more than 300 million by 2022. Almost three quarters of them will then be equipped with Amazon or Google technology, the industry experts estimate.

Privacy advocates are alarmed

Privacy advocates are worried about these numbers. Because as soon as the everyday assistants by keyword (for example "Alexa" or "Ok google") are activated, they transmit unfiltered recordings including background noise to their respective cloud – centralized, often far away server structures with huge storage capacities. The users no longer notice what happens to the data there.

"Nobody wants all things that happen on site to be transferred one-to-one somewhere and stored there", explains Thomas Bendig, research coordinator at the Fraunhofer Group for Information and Communication Technology in Berlin. It is imperative that such information remains with the user.

In the cloud, the data would also be used to improve the machine learning algorithms, "so that Alexa can understand and react even better", informs Amazon upon request. And: "We allow our customers to object to data processing for training purposes in the Alexa settings." No voice data would be passed on to third parties. In December it came according to a report in the magazine "c’t" to a breakdown: A customer found third-party records in files sent on request, the company spoke of one "unfortunate event" as a result "of human error". An individual case?

Alternatives to data processing in the cloud

There are already options for leaving the users’ material on site. One method is called "Edge computing" – Computing on the edge of the cloud. The data is collected and processed locally and close to the user. "This can be done by the normal internet router that we have in the house, for example", explains Andreas Seitz, research assistant at the chair for applied software technology at the Technical University of Munich – even if commercially available routers have not yet been able to do this.

However, it is also possible that such processes run directly on the hardware on which the language assistants are installed. One company that is following this path is the start-up "Snips" based in Paris and New York. Snips manufactures voice assistance systems for business customers that can be built into their devices. Those responsible emphasize that the privacy of the users has top priority.

Also attractive for home use

"It just feels wrong for a corporation to have access to a microphone that is in their own home", says Snips co-founder Rand Hindi. The storage and computing power that is necessary for the machine to understand voice commands is therefore not on remote server farms at Snips, but on the devices themselves, on which the business customers install the start-up’s voice recognition. The voice and background noise remain where they are – without anyone being able to access them unintentionally.

"There are a number of companies and research projects that are pursuing such approaches", reports Bendig. Because data processing beyond the cloud is not only attractive for home use. The industry has long since become aware of this.

The right speed is important

In addition to protecting information, speed plays a role for them. With intelligent machines, computing processes often have to run in real time, says Wolfgang Furtner, for example, who is responsible for edge computing at Munich-based semiconductor manufacturer Infineon. "The bandwidth and response time of the cloud is simply limited in the long run if every device in the industry has its data processed there."

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It goes much faster if they are offset on site and fed back to the machines – especially if the internet connection required for the cloud is not fast enough or is incomplete. Edge devices can also be used to pool and anonymize data before going into the cloud. Infineon supplies the hardware for this.

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Hand in hand – edge computing and the cloud 

So will edge computing soon replace the cloud? No, says Seitz from the Technical University of Munich. "Edge computing is an extension of the cloud, both worlds are interconnected." Especially with artificial intelligence or machine learning, you need huge computing power to process enormous amounts of data. "Doing these things in an edge and learning that is unrealistic"says Seitz.

Filtering, bundling information and only sending the bare essentials to the cloud – edge devices can still do that, the experts agree. 

Sources used: dpa news agency

The iPhone turned ten years old in 2017. On the occasion of this, we take a closer look at which curious, useful or annoying things the smartphone has brought you.

Smartphones are ubiquitous. iPhone, Samsung, Nokia and Co – the number of manufacturers is large, as are the users. Around 50 million Germans own and use a smartphone. With the smartphone, various trends have developed around the topic.

1. Siri

Siri is usually available to iPhone users with an appropriate answer if you ask them something. (Source: imago images)

Siri is the friendly voice that is at your side as an iPhone owner with advice. She has an answer to every question. Depending on whether it’s factual, ridiculous or serious, Siri tells you what you need to know. Where is the nearest café? What do you say on the first date? Siri not only responds, she also sends messages or flips a coin to aid decision-making.

Bottom line: if Siri isn’t being used for rubbish, it’s a useful feature.

2. The app

According to Statista, around 250 billion apps will be downloaded worldwide in 2017. (Source: digitalgenetics / Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Who doesn’t know it – the app? Technically, the app is an application that is used for different purposes, such as work, leisure or entertainment. You can use apps to expand a specific device, for example your smartphone. Games, utilities, music, lifestyle or navigation – the app is available for many different areas. You download them and you delete them.

Conclusion: App and smartphone belong together. The app can be anything, useful, but also a superfluous gimmick.

3. The power bank

The power bank – the mobile battery for on the go. (Source: nito100 / Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

These mobile chargers are available for smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. They became known in connection with the smartphone as a portable battery to take with you. Whether as a promotional gift, for ten euros or for 100 euros, they are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Conclusion: The cheapest models charge the battery very little. If you invest a little more, the power bank is a good companion in everyday life. Empty batteries are a thing of the past.

4. The smartphone cases

Protective covers protect the smartphone from scratches or falls (Source: coddy / Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Protective covers, as the name suggests, have a protective function. They prevent scratches and protect the smartphone if it is dropped. But covers also serve as an eye-catcher. Rhinestones, bright colors or eye-catching patterns are no longer uncommon.

Conclusion: useful protective function. How colorful or in which design is up to you.

5. The touchscreen

You control your smartphone via the touchscreen. (Source: solarseven / Thinkstock by Getty Images)

The touchscreen is essential for smartphones. It is a combined input and output device that you can use to operate your smartphone.

Conclusion: The touchscreen is an important operating concept.

6. The "Spider app"

On a splintered touchscreen, cracks are then displayed as "Spider app" when they resemble a spider web. (Source: rami_hakala / Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

A term used to describe a split display. If the smartphone falls, the display may crack.

Conclusion: can happen.

7. People camping in front of the Apple store

Apple fans camping in front of the store. (Source: imago / Lindenthaler)

A phenomenon that occurs when a new smartphone, in this case the iPhone, comes onto the market. Some people then camp in front of the Apple store to be among the first to get their hands on a new iPhone.

Conclusion: if you want that, you have to do it. This phenomenon makes many other people smile.

8. The annoyance about the Edge reception

With a "E." in the display you know that you have a bad internet connection. (Source: siiixth / Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

No WiFi, no 4G, no 3G, only E – every smartphone user has experienced this. For example, you are traveling in a rural area and only have one "E." appear in the display. The internet connection is then the worst.

Conclusion: everyone knows, annoys everyone.

9. The hype surrounding games like Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go – there was a huge hype about this game. (Source: imago images)

The Pokémon Go trend started in the summer of 2016. Players go on a hunt for virtual ones "Monsters"which you see through the smartphone camera. People run through the streets with their eyes on the display and run over other people for not looking where they are going.

Conclusion: a highlight for the players. Just annoying for everyone else.

10. "Show-off" with their fitness apps

Fitness apps show exactly how much you have run in what time and at what speed. Some people have to post this. (Source: Dmitrii_Guzhanin / Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

We know the people who post pictures on social networks that show the results of their endurance run – distance, distance, pace. What for? Showing off, or what’s behind it?

Conclusion: If you need it or talk to your running group, you use it. Others perceive it as "Showing off".

11. The selfie boom

The "Duckface" – a popular subject for a selfie. (Source: Creatas)

A selfie is a photo that you take of yourself in order to spread it on social media, among other things. This is interesting for many people because, for example, they can understand what their favorite celebrity is up to.

Conclusion: 50:50 – some people like it, some are annoyed by the flood of selfie pictures or the need for notification of the selfie clipper.

12. The push notifications

You can set or activate push notifications for various apps. (Source: milindri / Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Push messages appear on the display without the user having clicked anything. If you have activated the function on your smartphone for certain apps, you will receive breaking news, message previews or news in the form of push messages, for example.

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Conclusion: Absolutely useful. Every smartphone user can choose whether and for which apps he would like to receive push messages and is always informed.

It should be known that Google saves all search entries. However, many users do not yet know that this also applies to voice commands. But the records can be deleted relatively easily.

According to a report from time.com, everything will be what users after the voice command "OK, google " say recorded and saved by google. Supposedly this is done to improve speech recognition. But these recorded commands can be listened to and deleted.

Google listens – and records (source: Google / t-online)

How to delete the records

And this is how it works: On the website "Google History" open the "Voice & Audio Activity" Area where you can listen to the recordings and delete all recordings. Here you can also change the settings so that further voice commands are not recorded.

By the way: Apple’s voice-controlled assistant Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana also record what users say to them. But there is (still) no way to delete these records.

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Alexa, Cortana and Siri are also listening

Amazon’s Alexa does the same, but at least the microphones on the device can be switched off – and so can the entire device. Similar to Google, the saved voice commands can be deleted. To do this, the user has to log into his account and call up the Amazon Echo settings.

Voice assistants should make everyday life easier for users. Now Samsung is ending such a service for its smartphones. Older models are particularly affected.

How to create a routine with Amazon Alexa

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In 2012, Samsung launched its voice assistant S Voice. Samsung wants to end the service on June 1st. The company reports in a current message.

S Voice first appeared for the Galaxy S3 in response to Apple’s voice assistant Siri. By default, users can use S Voice with the command "Hello Galaxy" activate and give simple voice commands: like creating a wake-up call or asking about the weather.

At least initially, however, there were problems with the poor speech recognition. In 2017, Samsung also replaced S Voice with its Bixby voice assistant.

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Older smartphone models from the Galaxy S3 to the Galaxy S7 are particularly affected by the end of S Voice. The system also runs on some Samsung Smart Watches such as the Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Watch Active, or Gear S3. An update replaces S Voice with Bixby on these devices.

Sources used: Message from Samsung Golem.de: "Samsung is discontinuing S Voice"

Smart speaker users give up some of their privacy. Stiftung Warentest has criticized this – and gives users clear advice.

How to delete Alexa voice data on Amazon

Photo series with 7 pictures

Smart loudspeakers with their voice assistants should make everyday life easier, but consumers have to accept considerable data protection deficiencies. According to this, none of the 18 devices examined came over the mark in a sample by Stiftung Warentest "satisfying" beyond ("test"- Edition 4/19).

Users give up privacy

Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri from Apple ran on the speakers.