As part of Amazon’s recent onslaught of product announcements, a new Ring security camera found itself at the center of discussion for reasons good and bad.
The Ring Always Home Camera is an honest-to-God security drone that promises to fly wherever you tell it to inside your home and offer a live look at whatever is (or isn’t) going on while you’re away. It can also fly along a predetermined route if an alarm is set off. When it’s done with its business, it automatically returns to its base to charge.
On paper, this new Ring security camera is a crazy bit of tech that feels like it was plucked straight from 2084.
Bu the Amazon drone has also walked right into the middle of the long-raging conversation on technology and privacy. In the wake of numerous hacks, data breaches and bad-faith manipulation experienced by users of services such as Facebook and Equifax, the public has become increasingly distrustful of the tech world and wary of how much information they’re willing to hand over. A mere mention of a product in a text message or spoken conversation can result in targeted ads showing up in your web browser, or so it seems
At the same time, companies like Amazon, along with Apple, Google, Microsoft and Fitbit are aggressively pushing products into the market that ask for more personal data and access into the private spheres of people’s lives. There are phones that constantly track our location, speakers that are perpetually listening to our conversations and wearables that keep a running log of our vitals. And when it comes to an internet-connected drone that can literally fly around your house, there’s always the potential for it, and the footage it captures, to be misused by outside entities.
The privacy-related questions being asked about Ring’s security camera drone, and connected devices in general, are absolutely valid. But putting those concerns aside (for just a second, I promise), there’s another aspect to consider:
Who is this thing even for? And how much “security” is too much security?
To be honest, we’re not sure Amazon is reading the room correctly. As the public becomes more distrustful of tech companies and the billionaires who run them, is the world really ready for the “smart drone” to take flight?
There are plenty of home monitoring and security products that are beneficial and useful in day-to-day life. The doorbell cam is a great example of this as a tool against the increasingly common problem of package thieves or as a way to check out an unexpected visitor. But when does keeping tabs on every last bit of minutiae around one’s home become a distraction? How often will any of us truly need to see every last corner of our homes when we’re not there? How many times in our lives are we going to fall victim to a burglary?
Even if the answer is “all the time,” what would a flying drone cam really offer beyond alerting you to an intruder and possibly identifying them? Is this really promising more than current products?
At its core, the Always Home cam seems like a solution for a problem that doesn’t really exist. And as home security gear continues to evolve and expand, the latest and greatest features aren’t providing security as much as they’re providing the illusion of security. And aside from the novelty of having a flying bot, none of the additional proposed benefits seem particularly compelling.
The best scenarios Ring founder Jamie Siminoff could envision revolved around checking to see if you left the stove on or a window open. But a drone cam isn’t going to turn off that stove or shut that window. And if there’s a door blocking its path, it isn’t going to magically phase through it.
If these are genuine concerns for you, there are quicker and less convoluted connected home products to keep tabs on your home: You’d probably get more from a few well-placed cameras, a smoke alarm and gas detector, along with sensors on your doors and windows.
Or, here’s a crazy thought: You could also just introduce yourself to your neighbors, who would probably be happy to make sure you turned off that stove after you leave for the weekend.
Maybe there’s an amazing use case for Ring’s Always Home Cam that hasn’t been revealed in this product announcement video. Maybe this is just a starting point for the Ring drone and future iterations will become an essential smart home gadget as Amazon figures out how people use these things.
But it seems like a product like this is creating more things for us to worry about rather than erasing the worries we already have.