The Wynn Las Vegas hotel is adding an Amazon Echo to every one of its 4,748 rooms. A first for a hotel to do and a great way to market both the hotel and the Echo device.
However, it also means, should you stay there, you’ll have a built-in surveillance device potentially listening in on all your conversations whenever you are in the room. Call me crazy but there might be a few guests who don’t want Amazon listening in on their wild Vegas weekend.
The irony is sweet, given Wynn Resorts Steve Wynn’s press statement on why he chose to add an Echo to every room:
“If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made our job of delivering a perfect experience to our guests easier and help us get to another level, it is Alexa. The ability to talk to your room is effortlessly convenient,” Wynn stated.
But with all that chatter comes Alexa’s ability to upload what you are saying to the cloud. Echo has a listening component that is activated simply by speaking out loud, making it the perfect spy device — not only for Amazon marketing purposes but also for hackers and the government to get information about you without your permission.
The device comes on by saying the wake word “Alexa.” But, according to Amazon’s FAQ, “When these devices detect the wake word, they stream audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word.”
Alexa also uploads a bunch of personal information to the Amazon cloud both through the app and while you are interacting with the device and the app keeps a running history of past commands, which others may gain access to.
There’s also the potential to turn on the device without saying the wake word. While anecdotal, I’ve had a Dot turn on from something on the TV and I’ve had friends who’ve told me their devices have come on out of nowhere as well.
Of course, you can always unplug it, if you remember to do that and there will be those who don’t really care that Amazon is listening in, trading in a little surveillance for convenience, which seems to be what the Wynn is going for.
“In partnership with Amazon, becoming the first resort in the world in which guests can verbally control every aspect of lighting, temperature and the audio-visual components of a hotel room is yet another example of our leadership in the world of technology for the benefit of all of our guests,” Wynn said.
And really phones and laptops can do the same thing, bringing us both technological convenience and a way to listen in and record conversations through built-in microphones and cameras. So what’s yet another device set up in your hotel room for the same purposes?
Alexa won’t be fully operational in all the guests rooms until 2017, which means no playing music or buying stuff on Amazon for now but features like personal assistant will be released down the road. And, as the NYTimes Farhad Manjoo pointed out on Twitter, this is a great way to introduce the product to guests who may wind up wanting one in their own homes later.
So the next time you stay at the Wynn in Vegas, just remember Big Echo is listening.