Personal assistants have made their way into our homes. We have opened our doors to Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook… We are giving them the key to our most best-kept secret: our family. And we pay for it with private information. French startup Snips wants to take to nosing out of voice assistants with strong ethics on privacy.
Voice: the new interface
Talk is one of the first means of communication acquired by a toddler, even before she can hold a pen (or stylus) properly. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get your ideas across if you suffer from some impediment (except speech, of course).
Voice is becoming the obvious new interface for all tech designers.
It serves another purpose too. Once at home, it offers a more laid-back approach to technology and allows one to finally put aside that smartphone that has been spitting out notifications all day.
Voice assistants are the natural smartphone replacement at home.
The common accusation “it listens to everything I say” is unfounded. Catching the trigger word does not mean listening (and recording) everything. Pretty much like when someone calls out your name in a loud crowd. You react to your name although you haven’t been listening to all the chatter.
However, these assistants can be hacked and continuous recording streamed.
Moreover, even without hacking, the history of your searches and activities on GAFAM assistants gets added to your – already – fat file. Making you more easily segmented for marketers and their ads.
The privacy issues are Snips main concern. The entire Snips system is designed to protect the user’s privacy. It runs autonomously, on the platform of your choice: Raspberry Pi, Linux, Android.
The collected data remains yours, so are the data sets you may use.
All queries are processed locally.
Snips doesn’t mean to sell a single voice assistant but rather to have its system implemented into various devices. Snips can find its way in cars, home appliances and makes the delight of tech-savvy makers.
The Snips team and history
The Snips adventure started 5 years ago but the R&D process ended a year ago.
The team is made of 73 “idealists” as COO Yann Lechelle puts it. They feel they are on a mission to put AI in all devices and to make technology disappear while preserving privacy. And they won’t settle for compromises on this last point.
The idea that Artificial Intelligence and privacy can go hand in hand has seduced many investors. The startup has already raised almost 22 million Euros from investors such as Xavier Niel, Bpifrance, Maif, Korelya Capital and The Hive.
As Snips prepares to launch its own device next year, it is also raising money in the form of an ICO: the Snips token. It will be used to create a self-governed community that is incentivized to curate the app store and to make it better.
Snips’ journey so far has been uncompromising. After producing an effective locally-based artificial intelligence, the next step is the release of their own device.
Designed to make sure that what happens within your home remains yours.