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Hack your life with bots

Level 13

Having recently dropped Cortana for Siri (I’m still mourning that, but I have apps!), I must admit I haven’t integrated either into my life as a habit. I’m a writer at heart, so it still feels more natural for me to type and tap rather than talk to get things done.  The next generation have never known a phone without a voice activated assistant though. To them, it’s not a bot, it’s a productivity tool.

The voiceless bots have their place though. Chatbots on web help us find information while feeling like there’s a human replying back. Services like swole.me purely process data and plan meals without us having to make all the decisions.

With Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, our voice activated servants are growing. Except in Australia where you can’t buy either. You can get creative acquiring one though and setting Alexa to a location of Guam, which shares the same time zone.

On their own, these bots are glorified searchers and data entry units – “What time is the game on TV?” “Set a reminder for tomorrow to send James a birthday card.”

Hook them up to connected things in your home and you are entering home automation territory. Combine a Raspberry Pi with Siri for an Apple-esque voice controlled home.

Use Alexa to dim your Philips Hue lights or turn on your Belkin WeMo switch. She will also place your Amazon orders (again, outside of Australia) unless you disable that for the safety of your credit card balance. You can also add Alexa to your If This Then That recipes for access to other online services.

As consumer Cloud services have grown, people are more driven by functionality than by brand loyalty. It doesn’t cost much (sometime it’s even free) to have multiple different service subscriptions, so you’ll find people using Google Calendar and Dropbox instead of Google Drive. Connectivity of these services is another battleground, with bots like IFTTT and Zapier automating routine tasks between disconnected services or even automating tasks in the same product set.

Microsoft recently entered the market, well part of it anyway, with Flow​. I say part of it because Microsoft’s small list of connective services are heavily weighted towards business & Enterprise use and less at personal apps. I’m watching to see if that changes. Microsoft has extended this type of service with advanced conditions in its connectors and the ability to add gateways to on-premises data.

Behind all of this, the bots are collecting and processing data. We are giving them information to feed off, that they will hopefully keep private and only use to improve their services (and sometimes their recommendations). Even in our personal lives, we’re connected to the Big Data in the Cloud. Don’t think about that for too long or we’ll get into Skynet territory. That’s another article coming soon.

But it is another driver behind Digital Transformation and what companies are now dealing with. All of these electronic records of usage and purchases are driving how companies create, refine and supply products and services to their customers. All of that has an impact on ultimately what the I.T. requirements are for an organisation.

Do the bots concern you or have you automated your life outside of the office? Let me know in the comments.

-SCuffy

47 Comments

Siri and Alexa are amazing at what they can respond to.

A friend of mine who works for a sister company of Solarwinds is developing a voice activated client for NOC's and users called D.A.V.I.S. that allows a user to ask "What's the health of  <this> application" or Tell me all servers that are critical.

We also have developers here working on Cortana responses for our users to voice automate certain tasks.

Isaac Asimov warned us in the 50's that the robots would put us all out of a job.

MVP
MVP

while the current state of bots is more of an "assistant" and not an autonomous thing, they have their uses. 

I foresee them becoming Artificial Intelligence (AI) at which point in time things will become more interesting or worse (Skynet).

On the other hand, a bunch of hacked bots can wreak havoc on your personal life.   Just how secure are they really ?

Level 9

My concern is what affect this will have on humanity. We're already pulling away from each other. We text rather than call, we use social media to get our thought, ideas and beliefs out there. Take a look at the people walking down the street, they are walking with their heads buried in their phones. Now we have personal assistants like Alexa that we can talk to without any fear of being challenged by another intelligence. I feel like the lonely will continue to get lonlier or 'Her' will start to seem like a documentary and not a work of fiction.

MVP
MVP

Just read an article this morning that said Alexa "hears" words spoken as much as 100 yards away. While the current use of this voice technology is generally designed to be assistants to the user there have already been cases of the data gathered is being used for "data mining." Supposedly anonymously, but in a business environment where PHI and confidential internal network information, i.e. configurations, IP addresses and even passwords are spoken within a secure physical environment there's the very real possibility of your "assistant" passing that information on back to their "masters" in the cloud. (by the way, There is NO cloud just other people's computers) Again, currently that would be seen as just spurious information but in the hands of a hacker, or say for example someone is able to do a man in the middle attack they could possibly gather damaging information about your infrastructure or customers. And with a 100 yard potential range it could "hear" things that you would otherwise think were behind secure locked doors.

Bring on the "Cone of Silence." But then I may be showing my age with that reference.

Level 14

The more we automate, the less we are capable of doing ourselves.

Level 13

I can see how say a Slack bot would be cool to integrate with a monitoring platform, but voice is just way cooler.

What kinds of tasks would it automate? I immediately thought "reset my password" and then went "hang on, that's a bit risky!"

Level 13

Maxwell Smart was a man before his time (also showing my age).

Security is a BIG question for sure, as much as the Google. Microsoft and Amazon all want to reassure us of that fear .. I mean, risk.

Level 13

If you really want to scare yourself, read Ready Player One.

Level 13

Strangely enough I can draw a parallel between that and iOS. Where my generation had to manually update a computer, click through screens to install software, configure dial up internet connections etc, the iOS generation are used to automatic everything and therefore have very little troubleshooting skills (reset it or give it to an Apple Genius). Not that there's much you can do to fix an iOS glitch other than that.

Can I challenge you that if we automate the simple, we free ourselves up to tackle the more challenging?  Not sure which side of the fence I sit on regarding that statement, but the opposite opinion is also interesting to explore.

Level 9

I refuse to use bots, I worry about the unintended consequences of machines learning my habits. But I'm not on Facebook either so.....

MVP
MVP

Some websites use bots for their chat agents...lets the bots handle the easy repetitive stuff.

Level 9

Well, now i feel silly for flirting with chat agents.

MVP
MVP

But it's so tempting with that stock photo of the same girl for every company!

Voice bots like Siri and Cortana are too obtrusive for public use (IMHO).  I’d rather not hear what others are searching, and not share my computer commands with family or the public.  Once we go to true “wetware” interfaces, thinking at Siri or Cortana wirelessly may make sense if it can be done securely and safetly.

Both voice activated and keyboarded bots record & share your commands with the bot-writers and those to whom they sell your data.  This is not my cup of tea.  If the app (bot) is free, you and your computer activities are the thing being sold to others—who then target you for special treatment, whether advertising or hacking or worse.

Perhaps one day we’ll have a safe and secure Star Trek style voice interactive computer system.  Until the ethics and security and advertising and hacking issues of these solutions are resolved, I’m content to live without that kind of intrusive world.

MVP
MVP

Hmmm....implants, wireless access to bots like Siri.  Just think of the ability to hack into that thought stream..it is wireless, likely RF based.  Which means you start with a receiver and some software to decode it.....  Again, a man in the middle attack could really make life interesting if not downright ugly.

Level 14

Thought police?

Level 9

I also go back to those dim vestiges of time, and I am still not comfortable with everything anyone says (within range of the microphone) being sent to the cloud.  While it mimics the effect we saw in Star Trek (TOS), they didn't worry about some company trying to make money off their verbal banter.  "Computer!  Turn off the microphone!"

Level 12

This is an automated response from a bot.

I like this discussion. We are taking over.

Level 14

As long as hold up your end of the conversation, I'm cool with that.

Level 13

it's interesting. and most interesting, I only have 2 bots...one that tells me how to get somewhere (gps) and another that tells me it's time to answer emails...

My wife & kids & Outlook Calendar reminders are all the bots I need.

Level 13

rschroeder​ - I forgot about the wife and kids...okay, so I have 6 bots...7 if you count my boss...

🙂

MVP
MVP

what about pets ?  Dogs and cats and some birds will remind  you need to do things like feed them, flush their litter box, etc.

There's certainly nothing like coming out to the living room in your bare feet at night and discovering you forgot to let the dog outside to do her "business" before you went to bed.  That's one heck of a bot. 

MVP
MVP

yep....

Level 13

Do you have a Google account?

Level 13

That's a great point re voice being obtrusive in public. That's the reason videos with captions are taking off in popularity on Facebook too. It WOULD seem weird asking Siri or Cortana stuff in public, which is why the growing market is focusing on home-based assistants.

Microsoft quite strongly states that your data is yours and it's not shared with anyone, especially not advertisers.But you're not alone in your concerns.

Level 13

Thanks bot. I have another article due next week that you are welcome to write for me.

Level 13

Our dog bot has us well and truly trained to respond. Didn't take her long either.

MVP
MVP

The cats quickly and thoroughly trained our youngest daughter...especially when they think they are out of food because they can see the bottom of the food bowl.... 

one of the dogs trained everyone else to pet to pet him because he whimpers when he wants attention...more like cries for attention.

MVP
MVP

I don't use bots but I noticed that my 7 year old son tells google what he wants to search for. He started doing it originally as he didn't know how to spell everything.

Level 13

Depends how good voice recognition could be I guess. Password resets must be the bane of any service desk analyst's life!

Level 20

Like the chatbot robot that learned online then decided that the human race needed to go...

MVP
MVP

Have yet to see voice recognition that can deal with stuttering....

Wow, that's scary.  That voice-recognition option may hinder a child's brain development if it keeps them from having to learn to spell at an early age . . .

Level 10

Please remember to make all your 'Bots Three Laws Safe!!

Level 13

I can't see my kids school stopping the spelling lists in homework just yet. But I can already see the kids getting lazy with autocorrect.

Level 13

If they can learn how to generate their own power, we're in trouble. Even natural power sources like solar or wind need human mechanics to keep the machinery running ... for now.

My kids went to auto correct as fast as they discovered it.  I fear that as adults they haven't a clue about what the right word or spelling of that word may be, that they'll just select something the word processor suggests . . .

As the child of two educators, and one who believes  written language lifts us up above the lower animals, I despair for our children's future.

Level 14

I feel your pain.  Some the e-mails from our younger crowd already reflect this.  Is it too much to proof read your work?

MVP
MVP

what bites is when you do proofread and you get autocorrected after you hit send.

Level 9

Wat? U don like how da kids b spellin' stuff now? U soun like a H8R! Just kidding!! This psudo-language of texting is now invading these kids reports and essays in school. We are on the cusp of a new language!

Level 21

Since I work in the high-tech industry and spend LOT of my time with technology, I am pretty low tech in my personal life.  I really am optimistic to see how these types of technologies get leveraged in the enterprise to improve workflows.

Imagine if I was able t point my monitoring system at any given object and ask it to "Diagnose", it would the sort through all of the recent data it has on that object and related objects (including log data) sot come up with a list of most likely causes for concern.  it would then collate all of the data it used in it's decision making process and present it to me in a view/dashboard/document.  While it may not be 100% accurate, it would certainly save me a lot of time and help my Level 1 guys that are not as good at troubleshooting.

Level 13

That's on the agenda - I'll start a discussion about how this will help our IT roles, beyond the automation of chef, puppet etc. Self healing systems FTW!

Level 14

It has been proven that language does evolve over time.  I think what we are seeing is a de-evolution of language.  Cave paintings have been replaced by emotocons.

Level 9

It's true. We are regressing and going back to pictographs as language.

Better pictographs than petroglyphs!