Voice control platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Google Assistant are taking the smart home industry by storm. Home loudspeakers, light fixtures, thermostats, and more recently complete home automation systems are integrating the technology to provide consumers with a hand-free mode of managing the electronic devices in their homes. Sounds easy, and for the most part it is, but voice control isn’t perfect. It’s not for everyone. And it’s not the end-all-be-all of home control. Here are 10 things you should understand about the technology before you pull out your pocketbook. But remember, like all technologies, voice control will continue to improve and evolve as time goes on. These tidbits might be true today, but tomorrow, who knows?
- It’s Not Completely Natural … Yet. The way you issue voice commands to voice-enabled products and systems probably isn’t the way you normally speak. You’ll need to speak in a particular pattern and phrase your wishes perfectly in order for the technology to understand what you want. For example, you can’t just say “turn on the lights” and expect the lights in the room in which you are standing to activate. Rather, you’ll need to utter “Alexa, turn on the family room lights,” to make things happen.
- Few Home Control Systems Have It … For Now. Today, the most popular way to incorporate voice control into your home is to buy a single product with the technology built-in—a light bulb or a loudspeaker, for instance. Voice control Nirvana—when you shout out “I’m home” and the entire environment changes at once (lights, shades, music, temperature, etc.) can only happen with the help of a voice-enabled home control system. These are just starting to hit the market from companies including Lutron, Crestron, and Control4.
- It’s Impractical for Some Purposes. Does it really make sense to banter with your house non-stop for every single alteration you deem necessary? Probably not. Think about
which situations make sense for voice control, and incorporate it there. For example, when you’re hands are busy cooking a meal or tinkering with the engine of a car, are prime times to use your voice to adjust the lights, turn up the music, and so on. Other times, it might be more convenient to simply grab the remote control.
- It’s a Security Risk. We had to bring this up. Voice-enabled products tend to also be iOT devices, which means they’re connected to the Internet, which means … well, you get the picture. You can be sure manufacturers are aware of the risks and are taking all the necessary protective measures. A home systems integrator can help ensure that your voice-enabled network is secure from outside influences, too.
- It Shouldn’t Replace Your Remote. At a recent HTSA (Home Technology Specialists of America) conference in Chicago home systems professionals commented that voice should be thought of as a complement to other home control interfaces—remote controls, touchpanels, and mobile apps—not a replacement. There will be applications for voice, like activating the lights when you walk into the house holding bags of groceries, an applications for traditional interfaces, like adjust the volume of a music system or unlocking the smart lock on your front door.
- It’s a DIY Solution … For Now. Most voice-enabled devices so far have been products intended for homeowners to install and configure themselves. This will likely hold true for a while, but recently, manufacturers of
professionally installed system have integrated the technology into their offerings. Consequently, you’ll be able to hire a professional home systems integrator to set up a voice-controlled system in your home.
- Not Everything Can Hear You … Nor Should It. The more devices that are controlled by voice commands, the more phrases you’ll need to remember. At a certain point, you may need a cheat sheet, or choose only a select few products to shout at.
- It’s Not Mainstream. If you think you’ll be able to see voice control working in someone’s house or a home technology showroom, think again. It’s so new, not many homeowners or professionals have yet to completely embrace it. Expect the build up to be slow but steady, though; it won’t be long before home systems integrators will be demonstrating it in their showrooms.
- It’s a Single-Room Solution. Today, most solutions can handle the control of devices within a single room,
given the limited range of the listening device’s built-in microphone. But that’s bound to change as manufacturers are already developing ways to extend voice control to multiple rooms.
- It’s Not Perfect … But Always Improving. Expect voice control in the home to go through some growing pains, just as any new technology would. There will be misunderstood commands, hiccups in the way the systems respond and all sorts of snafus to experience in these first generation solutions. Software and hardware updates will ensue, as consumers become increasingly more comfortable with the talking to their smart homes.
Want your shades lowered? Do it in seconds from a smartphone. Not sure if you locked the door when you left the house or left the garage door open? Again, it’s as easy as pressing a button on your smartphone.
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