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Smart Home Step 5: "Anyone Home?"

Posted On - 03/11/2017 08:03:55

Voice activation is a game changer when it comes to Smart HomeSomething happened in the second half of 2016. Sales of Smart LED Bulbs jumped 250%.

Why?

Well, it did coincide with the launch of Amazon Echo and Google Home. And, as Adam Smith of Energenie says, "Amazon Echo has set Smart Home alight" - so it would seem there's a link.

Indeed, Adam points out how now over 3M UK homes now have at least one Smart device.

Seems voice activation is a game changer when it comes to Smart Home. And if you're interested to learn more, read on...

Elephant in the room?

There's a problem using Smart devices. It's to do with the way they're operated. For something as simple as turning lights on it's often easier to use the switch than your phone.

You could argue this is about circumstances. That there'll be times when one is better than the other. Flicking the switch as you walk into a room. Using your phone if you're on the sofa. And while this may have made things more convenient I'm not so sure it's made anything smart. After all, what's so slick about using a remote control? And what's so clever about using the switch? Smart Home? No.

Don't switch your lights on or off, ask them

Of course, neither using a remote control or switch is Smart. Neat, cute, convenient… yes. Ingenious… yes. But not Smart. For me, Smart is cleverer than that. And ‘cleverer' is out there. It's alive and kicking. It's called voice activation.

Voice activation makes it possible to speak, ask for things to happen and, like magic, they do. Now it doesn't matter whether you're near the switch. It doesn't matter if your mobile's out of reach. As long as your voice assistant can hear you saying "Alexa" or "OK Google", you can switch the lights.

Be demanding

Language is a complex, powerful thing. Utter a sentence and you communicate meaning in three ways. What you've said, how you've said it and why.

Now I'm no expert but I do know language excels at collapsing meanings into a few words. My point is this: a short sentence can represent something that takes several actions. I've already made the case for how much more convenient voice activation is. Now I'm making it for how speech makes ‘doing' tasks quicker, easier and simpler too.

Case in point: do what our IT Manager does when he's working late and wants a relaxing workspace. He doesn't search for his mobile. He doesn't open the Smart Bulb app. He doesn't select the colour function. And he doesn't change it to the colour he wants. He just says, "Alexa, switch colour bulb to orange". And it happens. That's Smart.

Built-in functionality

Different voice assistants go about things in different ways. You'd expect Amazon's Echo to work in a different way to the Google Home.

Both come with a range of similar functions and features. Both have their own built-in services. Both have services you can download (Amazon Echo has skills, Google Home has Actions). Both work with IFTTT too.

Now, to keep this blog simple from here on I'm going to talk about Amazon's Echo. This isn't because I've any issues with Google Home, not at all. It's to cover each in detail would make this blog long. And I had to choose one.

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