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Is in-home delivery driving security spending?

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Anyone who has fallen victim to the dreaded “porch pirates” can understand why the current smart home trend of in-home delivery of packages continues to catch on. Nothing sucks more than having video footage — from a video doorbell or camera — of someone grabbing your goods off your stoop and having no power to do anything about it. 

It is this convergence of technology and convenience that is driving interest in, and spending on, security. In fact, nearly half of consumers who currently own or intend to buy a smart door lock, a smart garage door opener or video doorbell value the ability to remotely allow Amazon package deliveries, according to new research from Parks Associates, an internationally recognized market research and consulting company specializing in emerging consumer technology products and services.

“Battle for the Front Door: The Access Control Ecosystem” reports that one-third of owners or future buyers rate this capability as very valuable, with 37 percent of smart access control device owners or intenders willing to pay up to $1.98 per package for delivery inside their home or garage.

“The growth of online shopping from sites like Amazon and Walmart has led to an increasing problem of package theft but has also created a new use case for the smart home,” Chris O’Dell, research associate, Parks Associates, said in the announcement. “As consumers increasingly rely on home package delivery, and look for ways to make this process more secure, they have a greater awareness of access control devices like video doorbells, smart door locks and smart garage door openers.”

The prospect of package theft creates opportunity for smart home device manufacturers and service providers to boost consumer confidence by guaranteeing safe package delivery with in-home and in-garage delivery services. Amazon’s 2019 partnership with Chamberlain highlights this potential. Among consumers who own or plan to buy a smart door lock, a smart garage door opener or video doorbell, 43 percent find the ability for FedEx or UPS to perform in-garage delivery to be valuable.

“Enabling home services will ultimately drive adoption of access control devices by expanding their value to consumers,” O’Dell said. “Traditional garage door openers typically have a lifecycle of 10 or more years, so companies need a strong and unique value proposition with smart garage door openers in order to expedite growth in the market. The promise of safe package delivery, combined with partnerships that incent purchase and ease installation concerns, can be that driver.”

Found in the report is an assessment of the access control ecosystem, profiles of key players in each device category and evaluations of home services strategies. It also includes five-year forecasts of smart door lock, video doorbell and smart garage door opener adoption. For example, one-quarter of U.S. broadband households plan to purchase a video doorbell in the next year.

Why’s everyone “trippin’” about IoT devices?

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

According to urbandictionary.com, the somewhat “official” definition of “trippin’” means “when someone is overreacting or getting all ‘bent out of shape’ over something small.” And while most of the more popular IoT devices present themselves as a small physical footprint — for example, Google Home is only 3.79 inches in diameter, 5.62 inches in height and only 1.05 lbs. while on the other side of the ring, fighting for market share is the Amazon Echo Plus Voice Controller, 2nd Generation, standing at 5.8 inches tall, 3.9 inches in diameter and weighing in at 27.5 ounces — they can pack a huge, unsettling punch when it comes to security. 

Having taken an interest in IoT devices in terms of security, I’ve written previously about what connected smart home IoT devices are REALLY doing as well as covered IoT devices from the perspective of trust, in which California is the first state to pass a bill, Senate Bill No. 327, that will require IoT manufactures to equip devices with “reasonable” security features, effective in the year 2020. Maybe government control of IoT devices is a step in the right direction, maybe not, but the fact remains that, according to a report from Zscaler, over 90 percent of data transactions from 270 different IoT devices developed by 153 device manufacturers, including smart watches, digital home assistants, medical devices, smart glasses, industry control devices and more are UNencrytped! This exposes these devices to hackers intercepting traffic and stealing or manipulating data, known as man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. 

Let’s take a moment to explore a real-life MitM attack and how these attacks can rob people just like you and me of our security. 

Meet Paul and Ann Lupton from England: happy, proud grandparents of baby Oliver, who had purchased a flat (aka apartment) in south London for Oliver’s mother and their daughter, Tracey. After the birth of Oliver, Tracey moved to a bigger home, so the Luptons decided to sell the flat for approximately $429,200 … quite a nice chunk of change and apparently some “others” thought so too.

Perry Hay & Co. in Surrey emailed Mr. Lupton requesting his bank account details for the money from the sale to be paid into, and he replied, sending his Barclays bank account number and sort code (a six-digit number that identifies the bank, in this case Barclays, and the branch where the account is held). A seemingly innocent action that led to his email getting intercepted by fraudsters who posed as Mr. Lupton quickly emailing Perry Hay & Co. again from Mr. Lupton’s email account instructing the company to disregard the previous banking information and send the money to a different account.

The sale completed and Mr. Lupton, none the wiser, sent the funds to the criminals’ account totaling almost half a million U.S. dollars! 

Mr. Lupton responded by contacting Perry Hay & Co. and the crime was (very fortunately) discovered, and it was fairly easy since Barclays was the account provider for all three involved —the Luptons, Perry Hay & Co. and the fraudsters (hmmm, maybe not too smart on their part?!). The Luptons ended up retrieving about $342,000 of their money. 

While the Lupton’s situation didn’t involve IoT, per se, and it did have a rather happy ending since they got some of their money returned, it demonstrates what could happen if a hacker taps into one of your IoT devices, your smart home speaker, for example, and listens while you discuss private issues — account numbers, addresses to schools your children attend, when you’re going on vacation so your home can be burglarized and the like — with your household.

By no means am I an IoT “hater,” (as Urban Dictionary so eloquently puts it). I understand the useful and positive impacts these devices can have on the everyday; however, I do believe security should be the top priority when introducing an IoT device into your life. 

Maybe more manufacturers should be "trippin’" and then “encrytpin’” their IoT devices’ data!

The eavesdropping Alexa … is it really that much of a shock?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

For the past few weeks, I have been rather intrigued with IoT devices, smart homes, and security and safety of people in this context. (After all, aren’t our homes supposed to be our safe haven … our place of escape from the crazy, hurried world we live in?) After perusing the internet regarding this topic, I thought I had read about almost everything imaginable, but I was thrown a curve ball by a man, Geoffrey A. Fowler, technology columnist, The Washington Post, who literally made a song out of the recordings Alexa had of him! (Click here to listen.) 

Fowler reported that he listened to four years of his Alexa archive that highlighted fragments of his life: spaghetti-timer requests, houseguests joking and random snippets of a once-popular TV show. Alexa even captured and recorded sensitive conversations—a family discussion about medication and a friend conducting a business deal—apparently triggered by Alexa’s “wake word” to start recording. So, why are tech companies recording and saving our voice data? According to Amazon, “when using an Alexa-enabled device, the voice recordings associated with your account are used to improve the accuracy of the results.” 

Fact or fiction? Maybe both, because another main reason is to train their artificial intelligence (AI). 

I may be going out on a limb here, but if people’s voice data is being recorded and USED without their knowledge, isn’t this an invasion of privacy? I say, “Yes, without a doubt!” Not only that, but shouldn’t these tech companies hire and pay people for their voice data to train their AI? I mean, “free” saves the companies money, but to the extent of people’s private conversations and information being recorded and used without permission?  

So, what can be done? Defeating the purpose of Alexa would be to mute its microphone or unplug it, but, in my opinion, if I was going to have a private conversation, that would be better than putting my personal business out there. Another option would be to delete Alexa voice recordings, but Amazon warns

  • “If you delete voice recordings, it could degrade your experience when using the device.” 
  • “Deleting voice recordings does not delete your Alexa Messages.” 
  • “You may be able to review and play back voice recordings as the deletion request is being processed.” 

(I wonder what a “degraded Alexa experience” entails and I also wonder how long it takes to process a deletion request, as during this time voice data can be used.)

For me personally, I will stick with the “old-fashioned” way of living to preserve and protect my privacy—physically stand up, walk over to the window and close/open the blinds by hand; set alarms manually on my smartphone or built-in timer on my microwave; and even use the remote to turn the TV off and on, change channels and control the volume. 

By the way, don’t forget to listen to your own Alexa archive here or in the Alexa app: Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy. What all does Alexa have on you? 

 

Amazon to acquire home mesh WiFi provider eero

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02/20/2019

SEATTLE and SAN FRANCISCO—Amazon and eero announced they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire eero.

ADT and Amazon team up

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

BOCA RATON, Fla.—ADT announced a new strategic initiative with Amazon where it will support integration of Amazon’s new Alexa Guard feature with the ADT Pulse security system.

Starting later this year, this partnership helps ADT customers enhance their home’s security capabilities by detecting specific sounds via the customer’s Echo device when they’re away from home, ADT said. Once available, ADT professional installation and monitoring solutions will be offered to customers through the Alexa Guard website and Amazon mobile app.

“In 2018, ADT set out to redefine security with innovative products and services, such as ADT Go and Digital Security. The integration of Amazon’s Alexa Guard with ADT’s Pulse security system and professional installation and security monitoring services is an exciting next step on our innovation roadmap and our successful collaboration with Amazon,” Jim DeVries, current president and incoming CEO of ADT, said in the announcement.

He continued, “Amazon’s vision to simplify the smart home experience through voice-enabled action matches perfectly with ADT’s passion for security and customer service, making us natural collaborators to ensure our customer’s smart home is a safe home. Today’s announcement will extend our footprint in the security and automation space, open new eCommerce sales and marketing channels for our products and services, and further expand our leadership in the category. We look forward to continuing to work alongside Amazon to provide innovative security solutions to our customers and broader audiences.”

ADT worked closely with Amazon to seamlessly integrate Alexa Guard with ADT’s Pulse security system and professional monitoring to enhance ADT customers’ security when they’re away from home. When a customer enables Alexa Guard on their Amazon Echo device and says “Alexa, I’m leaving,” Alexa will notify the customer if she detects the sound of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms or breaking glass while the customer is away. These notifications, called Smart Alerts, are delivered to a customer’s smartphone to let them know which sound was detected, and provide an audio clip of that event. Customers with an ADT Pulse system using Alexa Guard can choose to forward Smart Alerts to ADT monitoring professionals to help determine if additional action should be taken, including dispatching first responders if needed.

“Customers love using Alexa to help make their daily lives easier, and we continue to build new voice-first experiences to make customers’ homes even smarter,” Daniel Rausch, VP, Amazon Alexa, said in the announcement. “ADT has over 140 years of experience in the professional security installation and monitoring business. We’re so excited to team up with them for the launch of Alexa Guard. Since ADT brought the simplicity of Alexa voice control to their home security systems, we’ve heard from customers that they enjoy the added convenience and peace of mind they have using the ADT Pulse skill. Now, with Alexa Guard we’re making that experience even better for customers. When Alexa Guard is enabled, customers can choose to have their Echo devices detect the sounds of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or breaking glass when they’re away from home. When the selected sound is detected, customers with ADT Pulse will be able to forward their Smart Alerts to ADT, offering an extra layer of security.”

Later this year, ADT will offer new Echo devices directly to new and existing customers, assisting with product set-up and additional support for those who purchase the device through ADT. Additionally, ADT and Amazon are working together to provide offers and promotions to Amazon customers for ADT services and solutions, creating eCommerce opportunities for ADT while enabling customers to have enhanced home security options nationwide.

 

Amazon shakes up home security business

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Amazon announced last week that it is jumping into the home security business—with both feet I might add—with the unveiling of five security packages for both homeowners and renters. What is most interesting about this announcement, though, is Amazon’s go-to-market strategy, which involves no monthly fees, just an upfront cost for the equipment package. Plus, all five equipment packages include free installation and visits from Amazon smart home experts to go over what is the best fit prior to choosing an option.

For those who have been following the success of Amazon’s Alexa, this move really shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially considering all of the inroads Amazon has been making in the smart home space, from its acquisition of Ring, the smart doorbell company, to its new in-home delivery service, Amazon Key, that features its Cloud Cam and partnerships with smart lock providers. 

It will be interesting to see how this will shake up the current home security market, which traditionally has existed on a RMR model that includes spreading some of equipment cost out over several months or years. It will also be interesting to see how this move succeeds overall for Amazon, as the security packages get a bit costly on the higher end.

So, let’s take a look at what packages they are offering, many of which work in tandem with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Amazon is offering two outdoor security packages and three indoor packages. The first outdoor package, for $240, includes “expert smart lighting that will make it look like you’re home,” the website reads, while the Outdoor Plus package adds in a smart doorbell. For indoor security, the base package for $320, which is “perfect for renters” the website says, includes motion, door and window sensors, an indoor camera, smart siren and smart home hub. Homeowners can choose from Smart for $575 or Smartest for $840, each of which adds devices to the base package.

As consumer buying seems to be moving more toward a subscription-based model, this seems like a bit of risk to ask homeowners to pay that much up front, but it may be a risk that pays off for Amazon. For one, consumers who may not have taken the leap into the smart home or home security will see this as a way to get both—the Alexa voice assistant and home security—all from one provider in a very seamless way.

SSN would love to hear your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below.

 

Amazon deal has familiar Ring to it

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

SEATTLE—Amazon has agreed to buy video doorbell maker Ring, the companies announced on Tuesday, a move that makes sense for both Amazon and Ring on many levels. The deal, which Reuters was reporting at more than $1 billion, is Amazon’s second acquisition in the security space in just the last few months, as the company purchased security camera provider Blink for $90 million in December.

Amazon is expected to continue—and build on—the Ring brand, as it has with some of its other past acquisitions of Zappos, Twitch and Audible. And with the recent launch of its new service Amazon Key, as well as its new Cloud Cam, Amazon really has wedged its foot in the door of not only home delivery but also home security.

“Ring is committed to our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods by providing effective yet affordable home security tools to our neighbors that make a positive impact on our homes, our communities, and the world,” the company said. “We’ll be able to achieve even more by partnering with an inventive, customer-centric company like Amazon. We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods.”

Ring’s security devices, which have expanded to more than just the doorbell camera, should benefit greatly from this acquisition, not only by the exposure from and support of such a large company, but also in support of Amazon Key, a smart lock and camera system that lets delivery personnel put packages inside a home to avoid theft or, in the case of fresh food, spoiling.

“As Amazon moves more aggressively into the grocery delivery space... we believe smart security devices will be an important factor in driving user adoption,” Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian said in the Reuters press release.

Prior to this deal, Amazon’s Alexa Fund, which offers venture capital to companies working on voice technology, invested in the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Ring. Currently, Ring devices can integrate with Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant Alexa.

Interestingly, Ring CEO and chief inventor James Siminoff brought the product, then called Doorbot, onto the show Shark Tank in 2013, failing to make a deal. In November, Siminoff gave an update on the show, saying that Ring is valued at more than $1 billion and employs more than 1,300 people.
 

Yale provides a smart lock solution for Amazon Key

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11/01/2017

BERLIN, Conn.—Yale Locks & Hardware recently teamed up with Amazon on a new service exclusively for Prime members called Amazon Key, which enables in-home delivery and secure home access for guests and service appointments.

Industry reacts to Apple, other possible PERS threats

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

Smart home wars heating up

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Just as we have seen with the smart phone revolution, the battle for the smart home looks like it will be just as hotly contested, as there is no denying that consumers today are embracing the smart home concept. 

Studies are popping up weekly confirming that demand is increasing for smart home products and services as homeowners learn more about smart home and home automation technology available today.

The latest research, from market research firm Berg Insight out of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that North America is leading the global smart home market with 12.7 million smart homes in 2015, a 56 percent year-on-year growth. According to the research, the strong market growth is expected to last for years to come, driving the number of smart homes in North America to 46.2 million by 2020, which corresponds to 35 percent of all households.

The study found that the most successful products in the smart home market include smart thermostats, security systems, smart lighting, network cameras, and multi-room audio systems.

“There is no doubt that regular consumers in the future will own and operate a wide range of connected objects in their homes, from connected home appliances and luminaires to thermostats and security devices,” said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight. “Attractive use cases, interoperable devices, and well-implemented user interfaces are needed in order to accelerate the market.”

Although Amazon Echo’s Alexa is leading the smart home charge right now, Apple is making a serious play with its announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week of its new app called Home, which will be a hub on the iPhone for all the connected devices in the home. The app is the logical next step for Apple’s HomeKit platform, and both work with Siri, who is getting some improvements and upgrades as well.

Apple also announced that it is working with homebuilders—Brookfield Residential, Lennar and KB Home—to build homes later this year that come with built-in Apple HomeKit infrastructure.

Other major players in this battle for the voice-driven smart home include Microsoft with its Cortana voice platform, and Google Home’s Assistant, which was announced in May. Rumors abound that both Microsoft and Google, like Apple, are gearing up for a serious play for a piece of the smart home market. 

Apple’s brand equity with consumers, though, shouldn’t be ignored, as it is not a big leap to think that consumers would be willing to take the plunge into the smart home market with Apple, a company they know will be able to provide a complete, somewhat air-tight system from the ground up, so to speak.

One negative for Apple is its seemingly late entry into the smart home space, where many early adopters are already using many smart home products that will not work with Apple’s HomeKit platform, which requires using a special encryption chip. Some HomeKit-certified products are currently available from companies like Honeywell, August and Phillips Hue, and Apple said that there are close to 100 more compatible products coming this year.

Stay tuned, because things are starting to get interesting in the smart home space.

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