Amazon’s Ring Doorbell May Get Biometric Sensors

The Ring Doorbell may one day feel a person’s “smell” at your door. Image: Jessica Hill (AP)

I’ve always wondered when fragrance-o-vision would make its debut in the gadget world, but I didn’t think Amazon would be the company to make it happen. Given that fact, it might not surprise you that its actual implementation sounds a bit problematic to say the least.

The company recently filed for patents that suggest detecting a person by smell is a future capability for its doorbell cameras. But that’s not even its magnitude. The Ring doorbells can also scan to identify “suspicious” people based on their skin texture, the way they walk and their voice. What could go wrong?

The discovery comes from Insider, which by more than one dozen patents recently awarded to Amazon. They found that together, the patents outline a network of bizarrely sophisticated surveillance that doesn’t sound scary at all.

A ring patent, filed and awarded in the US, is titled “Neighborhood Alert Mode.” At its core, it’s essentially community policing, with a dash of suburban folks complaining about Nextdoor energy. Instead of your neighbor typing a loaded message describing a person he sees as a threat to the neighborhood – because what could go wrong there? – they just need to share a photo or video of someone they think is suspicious to other neighborhood users nearby. Ring will then ask other video doorbells within the network to pick up the so-called suspicious person, even if they don’t approach the front door.

While Amazon’s Ring doorbell doesn’t currently offer facial recognition like Google’s Nest camera range, the capability is mentioned a few times in the patent, along with various biometric identifiers. From the patent:

Biometric identifiers can be physiological and/or behavioral characteristics. Physiological features may be related to the shape of the body. Examples include, but are not limited to, fingerprints, palm veins, facial recognition, three-dimensional facial recognition, skin texture analysis, DNA, palm prints, hand geometry, iris recognition, retinal recognition, and scent/scent recognition. Behavioral traits can be related to a person’s pattern of behavior, including but not limited to typing rhythm, gait, and voice recognition.

This is where the smell-o-vision comes in, referred to in the patent as “scent recognition”. However, there’s no real detail on what technology would facilitate that. It’s also curious why you would have to smell a person to understand their intentions, although the feature seems to be more about identifying a person.

Insider found that Amazon has been awarded 17 patents in total referring to facial recognition. Amazon told both the independent and Insider that it does not have facial recognition technology or biometrics in its devices or services. It added that “patents filed or granted do not necessarily reflect the products and services under development.”

that of Amazon ring brand, which the company acquired in 2018, has a sordid history when it comes to how the cameras are used to monitor neighborhoods. The company has worked with police departments in the past to push its home monitoring devices, not to mention the Neighborhood app that has had Security issues from himself.

Amazon has previously argued against the fact that Ring products described as ‘surveillance’, but that becomes misleading as the company files patents mentioning capturing “partial facial images” of a person, or as Insider found in another patent, where the biometrics were used to aid in “criminal prosecution”. your actual neighbors can also feel a little uncomfortable knowing your outward-facing Ring devices contribute to some sort of private surveillance network.

If you’re looking for a doorbell camera, there are plenty of other options these days. Our top pick is the Google Nest battery powered doorbell, which provides locally stored facial recognition on the device and is shared only within your network of Nest cameras.

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