Voice Control in Home Automation

(4 Jul 2016)

While the world is still largely unaware of the imminent explosion of voice control in our lives (and homes), our industry has been waxing lyrical about it for some time. So what's all the fuss about? Will it really catch on? Was it wrong to name my daughter Alexa?

Voice control really began with the introduction of Apple's Siri on the iPhone 4S in late 2011 as a personal assistant - answering questions, making recommendations and performing actions such as buying cinema tickets. Siri adapts to the user and their search history to improve its effectiveness over time but we've all been amused by the strange responses we sometimes get, especially with any kind of background noise!

In 2015 came the first of the competition and her name is Alexa, the mistress of the Amazon Echo, essentially a Wi-Fi connected speaker with a brain. Slowly but surely it is changing the way we interact with the world. By prefacing a comment with 'Alexa', this device is hanging on your every word to help you in your day-to-day life: "Alexa, what is the weather like in London?", "Alexa, what is the tallest building in the world?", "Alexa, rock, paper, scissors!". The device then responds to these questions and behaves like a snazzy new pet, with all the associated fun and excitement but none of the mess.

But just like any pet, this is more than a child's play thing. "Alexa, play The Killers in the Sitting Room", "Alexa, lower the blinds in the Cinema" ... Simple, effortless home control is now on the tip of your tongue. The best thing? You don't have to pick up a phone, open a laptop or even be that close to her, thanks to the beauty of far-field communication technology.

And Alexa is not alone. Josh.ai, a US-based company, have developed a competing solution which is targeted solely at the high-end home automation market. More complex, Josh.ai has very clever algorithms which allow it to do multiple things from one command string: "Josh, turn off the lights in the cinema, drop the blind and turn on the first series of Breaking Bad" - Bish, bash, Josh.

With suppliers of dedicated home control systems also developing voice control solutions, the possibilities are very exciting and, in our opinion, this will become the future of smart home technology. Speak and it shall be; who needs pesky remotes?

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