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Future Alexa is Always Listening...

When tech giants Amazon first released Alexa, an AI-driven personal assistant speaker device, it sparked a frenzy amongst concerned consumers that she was always listening in on their conversations. Flash-forward a couple of years and Amazon have filed a patent that would suggest the future of Alexa will be able to do just that. The idea is that Alexa will take on a much more proactive role in the home, being able to listen to you while in a passive state and not only when she’s been activated by your call of the wake word. Alexa will be able to go beyond sharing a ‘Fact of the Day’ with you when you say “Good Morning”; she will be able to hold a conversation, make recommendations and share a more personalised experience with you.

The parent explains that Alexa will be able to listen in on conversations held nearby the device through voice capturing technology and ‘sniffer algorithms’. Software will then identify key words and triggers from these conversations. Each identified trigger can then be matched up and analysed against existing audio Alexa has saved on you to determine associated keywords and related data. Based on this, Alexa will be able to get to know you on a much deeper level and build up a consumer profile based on your likes, dislikes, shopping lists, daily habits and events you have going on in your life.



The information discovered about you can then be stored and fed to relevant databases including advertisers who can customise content and target intelligent advertising at you, through the medium of Alexa. For instance, the patent describes a hypothetical where Alexa can listen in on you making dinner plans over the phone and use information stored on the types of food you like or dislike to make restaurant recommendations and potentially ‘whisper’ where there are tables available while you are still engaged in conversation with your friend.

The future of Alexa also goes beyond targeted advertising and making restaurant reservations. Amazon are exploring the full possibilities of technology that open opportunities for detecting health defects. The patent explores the potential for Alexa to monitor users while they sleep and identify breathing patterns which allude to sleeping defects, alerting the user to a problem they might not otherwise have found out about. Similarly, Alexa could determine if a user is under stress based on their heart rate and recommend stress relieving products.

Amazon teasing that Alexa’s listening abilities could become much more powerful have again sparked a frenzy amongst aforementioned concerned consumers, who are worried their devices could get too close to them or their data gets leaked into the wrong hands. Amazon responded in a statement from their Spokesman that “we take privacy very seriously and have built multiple layers of privacy into our Echo devices” and emphasised this technology is not currently in use and will take years to develop.

Regardless of if you are for or against Alexa listening into your conversations to gather information on your buying behaviour and preferences, Amazon have already been following you around online for years using CRM software. Taking this technology and implementing it through Alexa ultimately has the same end goal as Amazon.com: to determine your preferences and use this information to leverage your buying behaviour by targeting relevant products to you.

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