Cocoon’s business model is simple: utilising the latest advances in sensors and cameras to make your home as safe and snug as a bug in a rug.
Cocoon differentiates itself by using not only motion sensors and cameras like other security companies, but also detecting sounds and vibrations — including low-frequency signals inaudible to humans(1). And one step further, they are using machine learning to understand the noises that are usual and those that may signify a break-in.
The operating model is built on the premise that every home has a unique sound fingerprint. According to Cocoon co-founder and head of software John Berthels(2): “this may include lorries rumbling by, the central heating switching itself on and off or a pet moving around. The devices gradually build up a picture of what is “normal” for each house.
If noises deviate from the established patterns — a back door being forced open or a window breaking — the device will send an alert to the users’ smartphone, prompting them to check their home on a live video link, set off a high-pitched alarm or call the police.”
However data protection and security pose obvious risks. As with any data sent over the Internet, there is risk of interception and data leakage(3). While the business and operating models described above are geared towards utilising technology and making your home safer, such remote access to property would also be of great use to malicious third parties.
For one, there is risk of camera access being taken over and used to spy on homeowners even when they believe the cameras are switched off. Ditto for motion and sound sensors. Even with privacy laws galore, which rule out eavesdropping on private property, such information can still be used indirectly and profitably. And yet, Cocoon’s target customers are likely to be people who value their privacy highly. Further, as consumers become reliant on security features connected to the Internet, this opens doors to third parties being able to hack into them remotely leaving no physical trace and the homeowner none the wiser until it is too late.
Privacy and security are critical(4) and Cocoon is taking some steps in this direction. Cocoon processes video and audio on the actual device and only sends encrypted data to secure cloud services if an alert is triggered or each time you check in. This misses the point however that so long as a device is connected to the Internet it is subject to malicious attacks regardless or whether it is sending over data or not. A solution would be to create a virtual firewall(5) that protects all Internet connections leaving the house, just like a brick wall that protects the physical space inside.
With the Internet of Things gaining traction, i.e. ultimate connectivity of all devices in the household(6), it would be critical for Cocoon to remain connected with any other security related apps, such as garage door controls, ventilation and window controls etc. These are not integrated as yet. The key challenges here would be compatibility of programming language (7) and higher security risks that interconnectivity inevitably brings.
Overall, Cocoon is a small step in the direction of integrated remote home security. However it is an important building block and precedent upon which further household interconnectedness can be built. Cocoon allows us to do something we’d not been able to do in the past – have a crystal ball and see, hear and act across walls and distances. Our ancestors could only have marvelled at this…
(1) https://cocoon.life/how_us (as of Nov. 2016)
(2) Financial Times, “Artificial intelligence moves from sci-fi to daily life” (Nov. 2016)
(3) McKinsey Global Institute, “The Internet of Things: Five critical questions” (Aug. 2015)
(4) M. Porter and J. Heppelmann, “How smart, connected products are transforming competition,” Harvard Business Review (Nov. 2014)
(5) US-CERT Publications, “Understanding Firewall, 2009
(6) McKinsey Quarterly, “The Internet of Things” (Mar. 2010)
(7) The Economist, “The language of the internet of things” (Sep. 2014)