28 Apr Home Automation and Voice Control
We have all become accustomed to speaking out loud to our phones and asking for directions and phone numbers, some of us are even proficient at asking Alexa to play our favorite song or tell us a joke. The rise of voice activated devices has dramatically increased in the last 18 months and there is no end in sight. Over the last few years, the accuracy and speed of voice control, voice search, and voice directives has exploded and is now the norm. In fact, depending on your tech level or age demographic, you may be more inclined to use your voice to text a friend or write an email than actually type it out.
The rise of Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home Assistant has created a massive marketplace for manufacturers to integrate everyday devices with the ability to be activated by simple voice commands. In the early days, these devices seemed more like a novelty than a necessary household tool, but as time has progressed, it’s easy to see the worth of these virtual assistants and how valuable they can be to completing our daily routine with ease.
Who Does More, Echo or Google Home?
Even in my own home, a basic Echo Dot is used several times a day to check the weather, set timers, and play music. As our time with Alexa grows, so does the list of things we use it for. Good or bad, the Echo Dot saves my kids a trip to the dictionary, encyclopedia, or even a walk over to the keyboard as they use the Echo to look up facts and info for school projects, check assignments, or try to figure out complicated math problems. One thing can be said, you can not beat the convenience of having a connected device around the house that can do so much. I will confess however that several times we had to “hide” it from the kids….my wife and I couldn’t take them asking Alexa for another riddle, joke, or to sing a song!
As the evolution of Home Automation and Smart Home Technology evolves, we are finding how easy and awesome it is to integrate these voice activated controllers into the homes of our clients. The “Home of Today” that was envisioned 20 years ago is a vastly different beast than what is actual reality today. Robots are not making us breakfast and doing laundry, but we can control the heat and check if we have milk from our phones. I think the state of “Home Automation” is far more advanced in some respects, but without a doubt, it really has increased our level of convenience for simple tasks around the house. A topic for another post, energy management, is probably one area where technology has made great advancements. It is now so easy to make your home super energy efficient and control so many aspects of your home climate beyond just the HVAC system. Blinds and shades, solar power, water consumption, lighting, and electricity can now be managed to the smallest levels using a Automation platform like Elan.
Even basic production built homes now have some form of smart control built in as standard, whether it’s a few wireless locks, App Controlled Thermostats, or even doorbell cameras and monitors, consumers have embraced the technology and crave it. In fact, today’s consumers have come to expect many of these functions as basic features that should be standard in a home. Remote controlled lights, fans, strong wifi, and advanced structured wiring have become no brainers.
In our own experience, we are working closely with a large area builder who constructs over 100 plus homes a year, and they have partnered with us to put a basic automation controller in every home they build. Irrigation control, garage door sensors, lighting control, cameras, and robust wifi are now standard features. The builder did not look at this as another cost, but a chance to offer more to potential homeowners than the competition. Today’s consumers house shop much like people car shop, investigating deeply what their money will buy them. Comparing line by line the standard features of several builders and what additional options are available.
Everybody has a smart phone today and I am not even sure you can even buy a “flip phone” or “dumb” phone anymore. Our Apple and Android devices have the ability to do so much the minute you turn them on and for the last few years manufacturers of all this technology have used the smartphone as the unifying piece to the technology puzzle. Your phone, via a downloaded app can now control all these things you want to add to your home. Security, HVAC, Streaming Music, Irrigation, Cameras, Doors & Locks, Lighting, and the list goes on and on.
Here at Play, we always joke that having 75 apps to control the things in your home is not any different than having 9 remote controls on your coffee table to watch TV. Yes, its technology, but it’s not convenient! This is how Smart Home Technology has evolved, by putting all these different functions into one dashboard that is easy to use, convenient, efficient, and makes sense. Think of it this way, today’s Home Automation takes all of these a la carte functions and consolidates them to work seamlessly together. You can now use one program to dim the lights, pre-heat the oven, listen to streaming music, see who is at the door, and turn on the sprinklers, and so much more.
Home Automation Has Evolved
The Amazon Echo and Google Assist as well as a few others out there take this home control to the next level by allowing you to do all the functions we just talked about and more with simple voice commands. With a few commands you can adjust the lighting, close the blinds, start Netflix, and even order pizza, all without getting up from the couch……or even using your phone!
Each week, a home technology company makes an announcement that they now work with Google Assistant or Amazon Echo. This week, it was Lutron that introduced the ability to control their Caseta Wireless lighting system with Google Assisant. This is very exciting news, Lutron is really the only serious and reliable contender in the Smart Lighting field and we install and manage many Lutron systems for clients. Now, Google Assisant can communicate with the Caseta Smart Bridge and just like that, you can control all you caseta lighting devices with your voice.
This post is part of our series on using voice control in your home. One thing is immediately apparent with all of these devices, it’s hard for the average consumer to make heads or tails on what works with what, who can integrate, and what device will operate your new toy. I feel the consumer side of the integration industry has done a severe disservice to the average customer. Yes, it’s easy to grab a “Smart Hub” from Lowes, Home Depot, and even Target, but getting it home and making it work is an entirely different conversation. The nice benefit of using a Home Integrator is they can make all these amazing things work seamlessly together and take the hassle and headache out of installing, configuring, programming, and managing the these so called “plug n’ play” devices.
The next question that you will need to ask yourself is, which platform do I use? I think this will end up like the BMW vs. Mercedes, Android vs. IOS, or Mac vs. PC. Only time will tell who is the ultimate winners, but it looks like the two big players of Amazon and Google will dominate and either one will be a joy to to use and happily work with many, many devices. It is the same question we get when asked about streaming media, who is better Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu, etc. The answer is always the same, nobody does everything!
Have you been trying to decipher which route to go, who will serve your needs better, the Echo or Google Assistant, or even where to start? We always like to hear the war stories, let us know your experience over on our Facebook Page.