Scout is a Runner Up in the Home & Living Award category of the 2019 Core77 Design Awards.
The world is conditioned to rely on constant exchange: money, communication, and services flow between people on an instantaneous basis, from a transcontinental to a hyper-localized network and everywhere/-one in between.
Inside our homes, increasing amounts of electronic exchanges exist within a concise footprint. And the exchanges that we actively deploy – ride hails, bank payments, text messages, sharing and playing music – are rivaled if not dwarfed by the ones being deployed with our data, to "invisible" external parties.
This is the new element of the conditioning of exchange that we're necessarily privy to by inhabiting our home spaces with smart objects: With connected devices, we're constantly required to give away privacy in exchange for convenience. And as these connected devices become part of our routine home lives, we are prone to forgetting about their insensitivity to our privacy. A new product named Scout, however, has been designed to save the day(-ta).
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Scout omnisciently communicates to users (via a stationary, interactive display screen) when and by which smart devices our data is being monitored, and with whom it's being shared.
"By the time we placed our [Amazon] Echo Show on our bedside table, or our daughter unwrapped her new Hello Barbie connected doll, we've already forgotten about their implications," say Michael Shorter and Leonardo Amico, creative technologists at brand design company Uniform. They created Scout (a router-like device) to reciprocally monitor what other devices are doing with our data. In real-time, Scout's screen reports on the engagement of our in-home smart products, and follows any odd exchanges, wayward data-shares, or suspected privacy encroachments with a legal request for an explanation – which the device's company is then prompted to share with the user.
"Scout is our solution to bring back trust in the smart home," the designers say. To be clear, this trust is not in place to rid our lives of behavioral reporting-upon. Instead, Scout was created to re-establish our control over our user information. That is, Scout offers us the ability to track the behaviors of the devices we bring into our homes, to solicit reasoning from the company's themselves when we want it, and to provide the option to disconnect completely if something surfaces that we're uncomfortable with.
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A Samsung smart TV sends user data to about 700 different recipients every 15 minutes. The extent of that data sharing seems exorbitant, but it has become a standard and relatively inevitable byproduct of incorporating truly productive technologies into our lives and homes. Scout offers autonomy to users, so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of the smart home without the discomfort of opaque surveillance; and forces accountability upon the companies behind the smart homes we've built for ourselves. Scout is fostering a new type of exchange with our devices, one that primes reciprocity in monitorship, and elevates consumer protection and privacy to the same tier of value as the behaviors that translate to data for the device-based services we consume.
In essence, Scout lets us keep an eye on those keeping eyes on us.
Learn more about Scout on our Core77 Design Awards site of 2019 honorees