What is a smart home? The future for smart home devices
Almost a decade ago, a new trend was born out of nowhere. The notion of smartphones – portable devices that could second as media players and connect the users to the ever expanding internet – was created. A whole new industry was born from it; soon after, tablets came to life, and even phablets, the love child of phones and tablets came to fruition. Where would innovation take us next?
The increased interest for technology among consumers fueled the never-ending race to innovation. Big companies around the world started creating intelligent digital assistants that could learn to recognise the voice of their users and offer another layer of functionality to your phone. Mobile digital assistants such as Siri and Cortana use Natural Language Processing and Speech Recognition to give the consumers a hands-free smartphone experience. Another major revolution came when devices outside the scope of mobile phones were introduced and welcomed in the consumer market. The premise of smartphone technology was to free the consumers from handling multiple devices such as a telephone, camera, or computer and accessing all functionality on one device. But the rise in consumer demands and expectations forced companies to think outside the phone. Can we ever have enough automation?
Smart Home Technology
Smart homes are a step further into the future where automation finds its way into every corner of your life, from reading you the morning newspaper to controlling the brightness of your night lamp. Even though it’s still too early to talk about actual smart homes, with digital assistants that control every function of the house with simple voice commands or touch screens, some companies aren’t afraid to set the foundations for that bright future.
What are smart homes? What is smart home technology?
Smart homes are essentially digital assistants for your home, fusing automation with a smart home ecosystem. The Google Home speaker serves as a central control point that syncs with your Google account as well as other smart home devices. It includes the Google assistant, while Amazon Echo relies on its famous assistant Alexa. These smart home systems are mostly there to automate some of your media-related needs, like play your music and videos and help you organise your day better with simple voice commands. While Amazon Echo has support for Amazon Prime Music, TuneIn Radio, Philips Hue, Hive, Uber and Kindle books, Google Home supports Google Play Music, Deezer, 7 Digital, Musixmatch and BBC iPlayer. Both are compatible with Spotify. Google Home is also compatible with Chromecast. Having been in the smart home automation business for much longer, Amazon’s Echo is a more popular choice among consumers; however, it is too early to discuss the best smart home system available today.
Both of them have inbuilt day-to-day internet functionalities. They can conduct simple web searches like pick a restaurant for you, read you the news and forecasts, and search for a song just by hearing the lyrics. Developers can connect their apps to these smart devices using APIs such as ‘skills’ in Amazon, making the devices more useful and smartphone-like for consumers. However, these smart home gadgets have not yet built an intelligent home, but a semi-automated house appliances technology. That’s a very blunt explanation of what the current smart home devices are. Still, they are pretty great at things like speech and voice recognition even if they are early in their development process. Google Home also has the ability to distinguish several voices as belonging to different Google accounts.
Amazon Echo has already had a successful run, and with a new contender in the battle of digital assistants controlled only by your voice, it’s sure to keep getting better. The latter has the potential to include services like YouTube and more Google apps, especially the Google Calendar, but it’s still a work in progress. Echo, being the early adopter of this technology, seems to be closer to cracking the code in what makes a digital assistant approachable and something many average users would want. Alexa has more than 10,000 ‘skills’ or services, while Home has a few hundred apps and services.
Both of them, however, are exceptional at voice recognition, and with the sudden surge of interest in smart home automation led by increased research in areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is certain we will see more features for both of these devices soon. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched that smart home devices will start offering tips and propositions based on your daily activity and even learn to anticipate some of your commands.
Now that you pretty much know what makes these smart home gadgets special, it’s easy to understand that we have miles to cover before we see smart homes as complete and affordable smart home solutions. When you think of a smart and intelligent home, you imagine a sentient house, diligently handling all your daily chores and reading you the morning news, while you sip a cup of coffee with your eyes closed. What is promising, though, is that we already see companies like Amazon, Google and Apple putting in the time and money to come up with smart home solutions to what might be the future of home automation systems.
Since we are at the age that we spend all our time online, even by just watching our favourite series or scrolling down our favourite social media apps, it’s only natural that we are looking at a future where information amassed by our online activity will be put to use in creative ways. Smart home speakers, and the idea of a smart home in general, is a concept that has been at the top of science fiction books for many years. Maybe digital assistants have yet to satisfactorily pass the Turing Test and are unable to handle full-blown human conversations, but smart homes are the future of immersive technology, and like the smartphones before them, one day we might see them integrated into our daily lives in more ways than one.