When I was at the Intel press event on Wednesday, one of the statistics tossed out by CEO Brian Kraznich was this one: By 2020, the average person will generate a gigabyte of data daily.
It's not hard to imagine how that happens: web browsing activity; e-commerce ordering; email filtering, replying and deleting; social media posting; using mobile apps; streaming media from a subscription service; strapping on a fitness wearable; doing actual work ... it all adds up. And once smart appliances become integrated into the normal household routines, your daily activities will generate even more data for companies to analyze and deploy for further profit. From how often you open the fridge to how frequently you wash your towels, from how effectively you brush your teeth to how much you run your air conditioning -- all of it has the potential to be logged and sent to a company that will use your activity patterns as a way to refine their products and business models.
Any time I see a smart device or smart appliance, I wonder about the following:
A. Does the user know exactly what data is being collected?
B. Does the user know how the data is being sent to a company and what protocols the company has for securing the data?
C. Does the user have the ability to view, edit or delete the data they've generated?
After all, your data belongs to you. And in some facets of American life, you are already your data -- consider credit scores or insurance rates based on your health benchmarks.
I went to LG today and had the chance to ask all the questions I brought up when covering yesterday's press event.
The bad news for those of us in earthquake country: Nobody knows yet how strong those magnetic clips holding the The LG Signature 4K OLED W series TV is. They're not strong enough to wipe random hard drives, so that's a bonus, but it's unclear whether they'll keep the TV screen on the wall if a serious temblor rolls through the neighborhood.
The good news about the television is that it's really a two-part device: The screen is one part, but the second part, which holds all the actual TV components, is a big, lozenge-shaped device and its speakers give really full sound. For people who have noticed that flat-screen TVs tend to have flatter sounds, this is a welcome shift. I also like how the TV component is separate from the screen so you can put the screen in an optimal viewing area but tuck the actual receiver and speakers someplace else as needed.
Now that the good news is out of the way, let's talk about what I learned about your smart fridge and data collection. I got a chance to pigeonhole the guys on the show floor who talked about the smart fridge with the new, webOS interface and the Deep ThinQ technology, and here's how that went:
1. The smart fridges all run webOS. How are updates delivered? How will users be able to block or roll back updates as needed? How are users informed of updates or best practices when it comes to security?
Because Smart ThinQ will be logging how often people open the refrigerator and analyzing the data to see when the busiest periods of activity are, updates to the OS should -- in theory -- be delivered at the least busy time of day.
Users should be notified of pending updates and should be able to ignore them until the day LG decides that the fridge's operating system really has to be upgraded. (i.e. for security reasons, etc.)
2. How long will LG support a smart fridge? A lot of folks hang on to their refrigerators for years — is LG really prepared to maintain the OS and support it for decades? Or will users be out of luck once the company decides a fridge is "obsolete"?
According to the folks on the show floor: There is no answer to this yet because the product is such a new category.
3. How easy will it be to find repair and service professionals for all these smart appliances all over the country? What costs will be added to making service calls if you happen to live hundreds of miles from an urban center?
There are LG-trained service professionals around the U.S., but there is no guarantee that any of them are located near you. As for the rest -- again, no answer to this yet because the product is such a new category.
4. Will a copy of the user preferences be stored in the cloud so people can download old data profiles if they have to reboot their fridge or if they buy a new one?
All of the user's data is stored in the cloud and any rebooting, etc. will be done by the fridge.
5. Speaking of data: Do users have an option to see what data their smart appliances are collecting? Can they delete any of it? Can they opt out? When and how are users informed of what data is being collected, where it's stored, and how it's secured? LG touted its partnerships with Google and Amazon — where and how can you find the data that those companies are collecting on you and your habits via your fridge?
No -- users don't get to see what data is being collected and they certainly don't have access to it. Whether or not you can access the Amazon or Google activity that originated on your fridge is a question to take up with Amazon or Google.
6. Furthermore: Let's say you want to sell your smart appliance on Craigslist. How easy will it be to delete all your account data and wipe the machine so the next person doesn't use your Amazon Prime account to order a dozen tins of caviar off Amazon Fresh?
The minute you unplug your fridge and remove it from your home's network, the link between the appliance and the data it collected about you is severed. Before you unplug it, however, you should make sure any associated accounts (i.e. Google or Amazon) have been unlinked from the appliance.
I told you I'd ask the questions and report back. Now it's on you to decide: Are you ready and willing to have your fridge telling its maker all about your midnight noshing habit? Do you mind not even knowing what else your fridge is telling its maker? Sound off in the comments.