Recently, I was invited to be a guest on a podcast (sponsored by Intel) called Digital Nibbles and the topic was Consumer Clouds. Digital Nibbles is a podcast that discusses data centers, cloud computing and other topics around big data, DevOps, mobile and IT in the enterprise. As an interesting twist to the traditional corporate subject matter, we turned to consumer clouds, what they are, what they aren’t and how many of us are using them. We also dove into the dangers of many cloud-based services from the standpoint of a parent.
I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast (available here) and also playable below:
One of the key points that I wanted to make is that consumer products and electronics are becoming increasingly cloud-connected. In fact, we are seeing a convergence of functionality into single devices as well as a cloud-enabling of others. The most obvious consumer device that has become cloud is that of the smartphone (iOS, Android & Windows Phone). Some integrations are tighter than others, but one way or another, they are becoming increasingly pervasive. You can create, edit and share Google Docs, store your recently taken photos within iCloud and interact via applications with a variety of cloud-based services from banking to photo storing and sharing.
Another convergent device reaping the benefits of cloud services is that of the smart TV where consumers are now literally overwhelmed with a variety of rich media services delivered on-demand (think Hulu, Netflix, Amazon On Demand and countless others). Google TV, Roku and Apple TV are set top devices that act as cloud services management consoles and gaming consoles like the Playstation, Xbox or Wii providing other types of enrich media devices that are transporting the cloud gaming services directly to our living rooms.
I firmly believe that if a consumer electronics manufacturer, or even a consumer appliance manufacturer isn’t looking to integrate some form of cloud service into their product, that product will fail. Consumers expect integration. And they expect the electronics or technology that they purchase to evolve, not be instantly outdated. A great example of this actually comes from the automobile industry. Ford, for example, has been innovating to bring information (and even entertainment) services to the dashboard of your car. And now, as these services evolve, and new ones are formed, you, as the consumer, can update your auto’s intelligence to evolve with the services.
However, as we discussed in the podcast, as these cloud-based services evolve, so do the dangers, especially in the hands of our young generations. I have written many posts about the dangers of the HUGE cloud applications that our kids use hundreds of times a day – that of social media applications like Facebook. Without guidance, these types of clouds in the hands of our kids can be risky. Children need to be trained on the risks of social sharing without boundaries (the cloud is limitless, remember). And many of these cloud-based consumer services may not have you or your kids’ best interests in mind when they write their Terms of Services. They, after all, want and need to make money, at the cost of your privacy. Many consumer cloud services are free for the basic services, but they do make money from your personal information, the data you share or save to their cloud, unless explicitly specified or prevented by you (via privacy controls).
There are some other subjects that I won’t go into in this article that come up in the podcast so I do encourage you to give it a listen. My point here is that technology is more accessible and available than ever. Carved into that technology space is cloud computing and within that, the consumer cloud is one that is growing faster than most people can keep up. You ARE already using it whether you like it or not. It definitely isn’t a bad thing, quite the contrary, you can now do more with your smartphone, TV or automobile than you ever could even a few years ago. I do, however, suggest that you educate yourself on how you interact with consumer clouds, especially around the data that you share.
HTD says: What are your thoughts on Consumer Clouds? Are you using them? Do you even know it?