Candle – the privacy-friendly smart home demonstrator – has won a Dutch Privacy Award! It was handed to Sherpa’s artist Tijmen Schep by Kees Verhoeven, a member of the Dutch house of representatives who often speaks on issues of privacy and ethics. The jury hopes this award pushes Candle from a prototype into becoming a real product. This sentiment mirrors the most commonly heard question when Candle was exhibited: “Great! Where can I buy it?”.
The project aimed to show that we can make privacy-friendly products that don’t require a connection to the cloud to work, yet can work just as well. A big part of this was the integration of voice control which used machine learning “on the edge”, meaning it does not require an internet connection to work. The goal of this integration was to question the narrative that companies like Amazon and Google were spreading after the audio recordings scandals of 2019. These companies claimed it was vital for their voice assistants to be connected to the cloud, and that these recordings would continue. Candle challenged that assumption.
The project also explores how ethical products could have their own distinct aesthetic so that consumers would be able to recognize these more respectful products when they go shopping. Jewellery designer Dinie Besems created a range of devices that visualize how privacy is becoming a luxury item. Similarly, product designer Jesse Howard created thermostats, smart locks, and a slew of sensors harked back to a retro, pre-internet design language, and which could easily be opened and be disconnected from the network using special toggles.