Editor's Note: New Tech Makes Sure Nobody is Listening

Nov. 12, 2021
Pozio’s technology to silence phone microphones debuts for consumers, but commercial applications are coming

This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Hey…before you say that….just who is listening?

That’s the question on the minds of many consumers, business executives and, of course, security directors, in the age of “Hey Google” and Alexa. Whenever an important conversation happens, there is certainly a chance that a device is inadvertently – or more sinister, purposefully – listening in and recording.

As we head into the holiday season, consumer-focused electronics innovation generally comes to the forefront. That’s why Amazon and Apple held major product unveilings in October. It is also a time when start-ups and smaller companies introduce similar products, which was the case at a recent Pepcom event, when I was introduced to a company called Pozio.

Pozio makes products that enable users to easily block smart devices from listening to them. “These docks and cradles block unwanted listening by using patented digital signal processing to prevent these always-listening microphones in smart devices from hearing private conversations,” according to a press release.

The release goes on to describe how it is used: “Users can say, ‘Pozio Stop,’ to turn off the sound blocking technology for 30 seconds, allowing them to then access, summon and speak commands to their smart assistants as they normally would.”

Pozio founder and CEO David Nickel explained to me that the company is currently targeting the consumer market – specifically a subset of consumer electronics users who run the gamut from mildly concerned about privacy to very concerned.

But when I took at look at the product demo, the commercial market immediately came to mind. Security directors and integrators have long understood that protecting corporate secrets, and intellectual conversations and property, is of paramount importance. These are, after all, the lifeblood of any innovative company.

Imagine if, before walking into a corporate strategy meeting, one of the attendees accidentally said, “Hey Google” and activated their smartphone’s listening function. Even worse, imagine if that attendee just happened to hit the record button on a voice memo app or digital recording app.

“The consumer market can be huge, and we think will do really well there, but [corporate applications] are going to be where this product is going to dominate,” Nickel says. “Corporations are at a point where they have been faced with writing policies around privacy and compliance and disclosure that are untenable, because you can’t write a two-dimensional policy for a three-dimensional problem. Accounting firms, banks, healthcare, military, government – they all know that there is this problem and that they are going to have to act. We have created a solution.”

A nice aspect of the Pozio smartphone cradle is that it disables the phone’s microphone but enables a user to continue to use and interact with the phone – so executives in a board meeting can see and reply to an important email in their inbox, for example.

The Pozio cradles for smartphones are nifty looking and elegant, and they include built-in chargers as well. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see a one of these devices in front of every chair at a conference table.

“You can have a [security] policy, but you are relying on behavioral solutions that are impractical to enforce,” Nickel says. “Here is a tool to actually help enact and enforce those policies. If you go to a meeting room, there could maybe be a gang of six [cradles]. Now, nobody can accidentally or intentionally be recording, no smart devices are going to kick in, and nobody is going to be embarrassed because some smart device kicks in during the middle of a meeting.”

As a start-up, Pozio’s Kickstarter campaign launched on Nov. 2. Learn more about it at https://pozio.com

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at prothman@securitybusinessmag.com. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com.