It’s great being able to get tomorrow’s weather forecast, to set a laundry timer, or to discover a new recipe—simply by asking aloud. But, in exchange for that convenience, tech companies expect us to sacrifice our privacy. They expect us to invite always-on microphones into our living rooms, our kitchens, and even our bedrooms. They store our recordings indefinitely, hire human subcontractors to listen in, and sell our data to third parties. That’s a deal that some are not willing to take. Some demand control over when they’re listening and what they hear.
That’s when Paranoid comes in.
At the heart of Paranoid is a small circuit board that blocks all audio input to a smart speaker, and allows it only after hearing the wake word: “Paranoid”. The circuit board is entirely self-contained, with no WiFi or Bluetooth connection to the internet (and, therefore, no access to potential hackers). When its on-board processor hears the wake word, Paranoid temporarily enables the smart speaker’s microphone— allowing it to function normally.
Although most current smart speakers include mute buttons, these effectively disable their main feature: hands-free convenience. As a result, most users completely ignore the mute switch. Instead, they leave their smart speakers constantly on—and constantly listening. Paranoid offers a convenient alternative.
Paranoid will be available in three separate configurations, each meeting differing needs and designed to suit different smart speaker models.
- Paranoid Home Button – Paranoid activates a USB-powered button-pusher that physically turns off a smart speaker’s mute button, and then re-engages it after you have finished your voice command. The smart speaker requires a physical mute button and either does not say anything when mute is pressed or can be configured to say nothing (as opposed to saying “mute has been turned on/off” each time). As examples, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (2nd and 3rd Gen) are supported.
- Paranoid Home Wave – Paranoid discreetly generates noise and interference in close proximity to the smart speaker’s microphones to jam them. When the Paranoid device detects the wake word, it temporarily stops the jamming to allow the smart speaker to hear and respond to voice commands. (Note: the noise generated by Paranoid Home Wave will not be perceptible to the human ear or cause any sort of disruption or distraction.). As examples, Google Home and Google Home Mini are supported.
- Paranoid Home Max – If your device lacks a mute button, or if you don’t trust the mute button, we recommend our internal configuration. The user takes or ships their smart speaker to service centers, where technicians physically cut the microphone and bypass the signal to go through the Paranoid circuitry. The device is then returned with Paranoid privacy built in.
- At the push of the physical button, Paranoid Home will say what percent of the time it has blocked eavesdropping. For example, “99.2% of listening was blocked this week”.
- A little LED light turns on anytime Paranoid Home is allowing the smart speaker to listen.
- Conversation mode is supported.
- Paranoid Home not only listens for the “Paranoid” wake word, but it also watches the behaviour of the smart speaker and cuts off listening if the smart speaker does not indicate to the user that it is listening (for example, with the smart speaker lights).
Initially they are supporting several models of Amazon Echo and Google Home. Specific models will be available to fit different speakers. The device does not connect to the cloud, WiFi, Bluetooth or the internet. The user does not input any WiFi credentials. In fact, it lacks an antenna and other components that would enable wireless connectivity. It uses only on-board processing to detect the keyword. It cannot be remotely accessed by potential hackers, and will not transmit any data to the cloud. The initial model will be available for $49 USD. A pack of 3 will be $129 USD. There will be a special introductory offer for a select number of initial customers. Paranoid will initially be sold only in the U.S. and Canada, with international sales expected later in 2020.