What You Need to Know About Digital Assistants

Jan 25, 2017

2017 is already being touted as the year of the digital assistant, especially among teens and millennials. Your child may already be on a first-name basis with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa, also known as the Fab Four of personal digital assistants. Accenture recently polled 25,996 internet users worldwide, ages 14 and older, to ask them about the usage of voice-enabled digital assistants. The age range of 14-17 year-olds was the most active age group to regularly use digital assistants and also scored the highest for responders who just started using digital assistants.


Are We Risking Our Privacy for Convenience

Digital Assistants are here for the long haul. Gartner forecasts that by 2019, digital assistants on smartphones and other devices will be in at least 25% of households in developed countries. In the near future, users will no longer have to contend with multiple apps; instead, they will talk solely to their digital assistant. While there is no doubt that digital assistants can give us instant access to information and perform cool tasks, like adding groceries to our shopping lists, sending reminders to buy birthday gifts, checking the weather, sending texts, ordering an Uber, or even a product on Amazon - but are we risking our privacy for convenience?

Digital assistants can only be intuitive to our needs if we grant them access to listen to our private conversations, know the websites we visit, the apps we spend time on, or the store and restaurants we visit. The more data they collect on the user, the better they can be taught to guess what the user wants to know. For example, receiving an alert of local traffic issues while traveling on a common route may change the commute time. This creates a serious technology dilemma that has yet to be solved; how do they deliver convenience without sacrificing privacy and security? Ultimately, it is a personal choice on how much data you are willing to share with technology corporations for the convenience of an intuitive digital assistant.

A Few Digital Assistants Just for Kids

Digital Assistants are no longer just for us adults. The largest tech convention CES 2017 was packed with digital assistants created just for kids. Two of the DA stars at the show include:


C-Way’s "Memoo" allows parents to connect with an app on their phone and program how they want their child to interact. If getting your child up for school is an issue, set the "Memoo" to be an alarm, followed by a check of the weather, and a reminder of items to make sure are packed in backpacks. Parent-approved music can also be played if the family has a Spotify account. "Memoo" can even be programmed to read a favorite bedtime story or play a favorite game. In addition, a two-way messaging feature is available for contacts that are pre-approved by a parent.


“Aristotle” by Nabi is being touted as one of the stars of the CES show. It’s artificial intelligence can identify individual children from their voices to grant age appropriate tasks. “Aristotle” can play white noise while your child sleeps, has a camera to serve as a visual baby monitor, reads stories with sound and light effects, can teach second-language lessons and play games. It can log wet diapers and feedings via voice command, and automatically order diapers and formula from participating retailers. It even searches for the best coupons and deals online for baby supplies.

Every parent at some point will need to decide how involved they want the presence of voice-activated digital assistants in their children’s lives. With all the new advances in technology, it can be imitating, but I must admit, it is pretty cool to be able to send my children a good morning message that they can hear to wake them up when traveling.