Parisian startup Snips is going after market leaders Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant with a new blockchain-based artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant that promises a higher level of protection for users’ personal data.
Snips AIR, which will be available for consumers in the end of 2019, is set to be the first decentralized, privacy-focused voice platform. Instead of storing data in the cloud, Snips AIR will process data 100% on-device, ensuring that families’ personal data remains within their smart homes.
The company claims the new platform aims to address the numerous issues faced by existing AI voice assistants that are powering smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.
Smart speakers are the fastest-growing consumer tech with global sales expected to reach 56 million devices this year, according to research firm Canalys. And yet, serious privacy and security concerns remain with cases of devices recording more than they should.
Case in point, a tech journalist who was given a Google Home Mini ahead of its general release date last year discovered that the device was making recordings even when he hadn’t summoned Google Assistant, the AI powering the Google Home devices.
Moreover, smart speakers are connected to the Internet which makes them prone to hackers. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant can sync with a user’s calendar, and access passwords along with other private information.
Snips wants to address these flaws by utilizing its AIR Network blockchain and edge computing to create a decentralized platform in which users are in control over their data. The technology allows data processing to be done locally without any data being sent to a cloud back-end.
“Existing voice assistants represent everything that is wrong with the Internet today: centralization of personal data, deprivation of privacy, and exploitation of users and developers. Snips AIR, which will ship in late 2019, will offer a real alternative to families who care about protecting their privacy,” said Rand Hindi, co-founder and CEO at Snips.
Rather than a single device, Snips AIR consists of a network of devices collaborating to form a mesh of AI assistants. Snips AIR runs locally without any voice data being sent to the cloud and AIR devices communicate with one another using a shared protocol, the open source AIRnet protocol, which consist of both a network abstraction layer and an ontology layer. Any device manufacturer will be able to implement the AIRnet protocol.
When launched in the end of 2019, Snips AIR will come with a number of built-in applications such as home automation, weather, multimedia, cooking, date/time, calendars and reminders.
Developers will be able to create additional apps for Snips AIR and publish them on a decentralized app store called the Snips Skill Store, which will run on top of an application-specific blockchain. The token-curated marketplace will use Snips AIR tokens to ensure anonymous, decentralized transactions between users and developers.
Besides the Snips AIR platform, the startup is also working on two AIR device concepts: a smart speaker called AIR Base, and a portable microphone, called AIR Satellite.
Founded in 2013, Snips employs 60 people in Paris and New York. The startup has raised €22 million in funding so far and will be conducting an initial coin offering (ICO) in the coming months.