Voice Control in the Smart Home - What you Need to Know

Voice Control in the Smart Home - What you Need to Know

Voice control platforms offer a hands-free way to operate lights, thermostats, door locks and more, but is there a catch?

We have all been there — wet hands, full arms, juggling five things at once, or just in the middle of something else when the doorbell rings, you need more light, or you’d like to change the channel on the TV or switch to a new song. Sure, you could stop what you’re doing, wipe your hands, put things down, or otherwise free yourself up to get to the various controls. But, wouldn’t it be easier, faster, and more convenient to just tell your home to handle the task and have it carry out your wishes?

Thanks to the availability of a wide variety of voice-controllable devices — interactive voice assistants and smart speakers from Josh.ai, Apple, Amazon, and Google, for instance — controlling your home while being completely hands-free is not just possible but really, quite enjoyable (insider’s tip: changing the voice is possible with some voice assistants and smart speakers, which ups the fun factor significantly).

Voice Control – Gaining Momentum

According to TechCrunch, over a quarter of US adults now own a smart speaker. This number is predicted to rise to 55 percent by 2022. Smart speakers are being put to good use, too, with 72 percent of people who own voice-activated speakers using them daily as part of their routines, per Google.

Bottom line; it’s become increasingly popular for people to use voice assistant technologies over traditional user interfaces like keypads, touchpanels, smartphones and remote controls as the preferred method of controlling smart devices in a home.

It is not just tech enthusiasts who have adopted voice as a means of gathering information and controlling the home. “Prior to voice control, we often heard about households where only the father would use the home control system,” says Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Josh.ai “At the early stages of the technology, it may have been more appealing to early adopters and millennials. We’ve reached the point now where voice control has been embraced by all ages and genders for its simplicity and is recognized as a solution for those with poor vision, mobility, or simply a fear of technology.”

Continual Refinements Create Better Experiences

“I had a bad experience.” Ugh. We know, though try to put that aside. Like any new technology, voice control grew fast and experienced some growing pains. In the beginning, voice assistants and smart speakers sometimes struggled to hear users’ verbal requests, often misinterpreted the commands, and only responded to particular phrases. Moreover, these commands could control only a few select smart home devices. This has all changed. Voice control systems have been engineered with more advanced microphones to improve intelligibility, advanced speech recognition engines to understand varied rhythms and patterns of speech, and technology that enables them to integrate with many popular home control systems. The latter is a game-changer, as one spoken phrase, such as “I’m home,” can now command several devices at once—turning on the foyer light, adjusting the thermostat, opening the living room shades and turning on a favorite music playlist, for example.

Able to hear, understand, and execute verbal commands, voice control platforms have eliminated the need to tap buttons on a smartphone or tablet to retrieve music, find a keypad in the dark to turn on the lights, or type information with your remote control to find a particular movie to watch. The hands-free nature of this voice control and voice-enabled technology interaction is the main reason homeowners have adopted voice control. The numbers are staggering. By January 2019 smart speaker ownership increased 40% in 2018— which equated to 66.4 million adults in the US, to put things in perspective That’s a lot. (Source: Voicebot.ai)

TRUFIG flush-mount installation of Josh Micro voice control device
Josh Micro voice control device installed flush in wall - Image courtesy TRUFIG

Voice is Now a Valid Method of Home Control

Is using voice as a way to control a home even on most people’s radar? According to a study by Accenture, the answer is yes. Voice assistants and smart speakers may have started out as a pipeline to information, though consumers now expect to use these devices for more advanced tasks like voice calling, playing music or eBooks, and accessing calendars, directions, weather, and the news. People see value in voice assistants managing home security and providing connected home automation.

Getting more specific, there are a wide variety of applications for which voice control is ideal. For example, it’s extremely helpful when your hands are occupied. It’s also simpler and quicker to cue music, tune-in to a particular TV program or set thermostats to specific setpoints via a voice command than manually scrolling through menus on a touchpanel or mobile app. It’s also a lot more fun to sing in the shower with background music, courtesy of a voice assistant or smart speaker.

Is Security and Privacy at Risk?

As great as voice control is, there is one big concern consumers have about voice control in the home (many trade professionals too): invasion of privacy. Despite the high adoption rate of voice assistants and smart speakers and a willingness to use them as a conduit to smart devices and home control systems, consumers cite potential privacy and security risks as the primary reason they are leery of the technology. Mass market, DIY voice assistants and smart speakers typically lack robust security features and can be a potential gateway for hackers, which is why many home technology integrators find professional solutions such as Josh.ai a better option. Engineered from the start with advanced privacy features and designed to be installed exclusively by certified professional integrators (many of which are HTA Certified, find them here), the Josh.ai platform offers a more comprehensive and secure alternative to Google ‘s Home Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri. “Most popular voice assistants and smart speakers do the bulk of their voice processing in the cloud,” Capecelatro notes. “Conversely, Josh.ai handles most of its processing on local hardware instead of the cloud, which ensures a more private architecture.” Professional installation also helps improve the reliability and accuracy of the system, as integrators understand how to best position Josh Micro devices based on a room’s acoustics. On a related note, the best home technology professionals will also ensure their customers have a safe and secure home network, too.

Voice Control Works Well With Others

Despite all of its appeal, voice control isn’t the end-all-be-all of a smart home lifestyle. There are still many occasions when using a keypad, touchpanel, remote control, or smartphone makes more sense. By layering in other methods of control, home technology integrators are able to offer a fully robust solution, enabling homeowners to use voice control for certain situations, and keypads, touchpanels, apps and remotes for other types of tasks.

As you have learned here, voice control is definitely a viable control option for the home and a great way to make things more readily accessible and easier to use. The technology is not perfect though is evolving and improving every day (the more people use it, the better it gets. Voice control products update their software regularly, it gets better every month). The best companies to consult on which options are best for your particular needs are HTA Certified home technology integration firms. Want to see what professionally-installed home technology systems should cost? Click the button below.

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Voice control
smart assistant
smart speaker