Voice Control: What Can It Do for You and Your Smart Home?
A Discussion with Managing Director, Dean Valencic
Imagine how convenient life could be if you simply instructed your house to perform tasks for you. Think about it: what if you could tell the lights to turn off, or regulate the temperature in your home with a simple voice command? Last month at CEDIA, Amazon announced that its voice activation products now integrate with smart home automation providers like Control4. This collaboration means transforming your Greenwich, CT dream home into a smart home, as it will combine the most successful voice control with a professionally installed and managed home automation system. In discussion with Integrated Electronic Solutions’ very own Dean Valencic, we examine the benefits, features, and future of voice control and smart technology. Read on to learn more.
Question: How can voice control improve the relationship between owner and smart home?
Answer: “What struck me at CEDIA was that it actually works, which a year ago wasn’t the case,” Dean Valencic said after witnessing a demonstration of Alexa in action. He noted that the advancements could dramatically improve the homeowner’s experience with their entire smart home system. Let’s paint the picture: you’re coming home, your hands are full of shopping bags. Now you’re trying to turn on the lights and set the temperature in the house. Just by walking in and saying “Alexa, I’m home,” the system will recognize your command and turn on the lights and the heat. Moving to a VUI (Voice User Interface) will make your entire home more user-friendly than ever before.
Q: What devices do I need to make voice control a reality in my home?
A: The homeowner will not be replacing their current devices or controls per se; they will simply add these voice recognition devices, Echo or Echo Dot. These devices are Alexa-activated, meaning they use Amazon’s voice interface, Alexa. Homeowners won’t require these to control their lights; they will still have their switches and remote controls. The voice control will be tied in with their system: Alexa will recognize the voice command and send the command to their existing control system.
Q: Will the installation process be difficult? Of what should the homeowner be aware?
A: Dean Valencic noted: “If the system is properly set up, then adding Alexa will be simple. The integrator will come in and connect Echo with the system through software. It is not a hardware-based integration.” If the homeowner has a whole home system in place, Alexa will work as part of that whole home automation. The same devices incorporated under your integration system can then be controlled through Alexa. You have a button on the touch panel called “Good Night,” that will set the scene for the night, now you can just say “Good Night” to Alexa to set that same scene.
Now, the downside of voice control is that you may not want it incorporated throughout the whole home. Say you have no switch on the wall in your nursery, and you have to speak to turn off the lights, then you will wake up the baby. Dean suggests: “You probably will still want button controls, and then strategically position the voice control devices.” An integrator can help with that planning.
Q: How do you imagine the future of voice control?
A: Overall, it’s going to become more natural. Right now, you can only use direct commands. In the future, things will move toward “deep-linking.” This will mean you could ask Alexa to play a specific song, and the system will know where you are and who you are. It will turn on the speakers in the kitchen, and find a specific playlist on Spotify or whichever music system you use. As your system learns more about you and your lifestyle, the conversation will become more and more natural. As Dean Valencic puts it: “Home control is just going to improve. In the next 3-5 years, this is going to be big.”
Q: How can Integrated Electronic Solutions help homeowners incorporate voice automation into their smart homes?
A: We will help design and program the system, to make sure that it works as naturally as possible. One focus will be where the voice controls should be placed to maximize the positive impact on their lives. There will also be education over the command language that Alexa uses. The goal is that the homeowner feels comfortable and the system works perfectly.
The complete smart home fantasy is beginning to take shape: our houses are speaking our language. Through Amazon’s voice control technology, we can start telling our lights, audio, heat, security, etc. what we want them to do. To incorporate voice control in your home, contact us, and we’ll help get you started.