The Evolution Of Home Automation And Voice Control

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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, instead of typing something out, you may be more inclined to use your voice to text a friend or write an email.

It’s easy to see the worth of these virtual assistants and how valuable they can be

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 make our daily routine easier.

Good or bad, the Echo Dot saves my kids a trip to the dictionary, encyclopedia, or even a walk over to the keyboard

Even in my own home, a basic Echo Dot was used several times a day to check the weather, set timers, and play music. I say was because the Dot became extremely annoying and distracting (cue: “sing Happy Birthday” 20 times per day) with the kids constantly using it – we had to set some boundaries!

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 cannot 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 song!

It’s now extremely easy to make your home super energy efficient

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 we see in 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 has increased our level of convenience around the house, especially for simple tasks. A topic for another post, energy management, is probably one area where technology has made great advancements.

It’s now extremely 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 minutest details using an Automation platform such as Elan.

Remote controlled lights, fans, strong wifi, and advanced structured wiring have become no-brainers. text

Even basic, production-built homes today 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 to be standard in a home, as basic features. 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. 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 didn’t look at this as another cost, but as a chance to offer more than the competition to potential homeowners. Today’s consumers ‘house shop’ in much the same way as they ‘car shop.’ They investigate deeply what their money will buy them, comparing line by line the standard features of several builders and what additional options are available.

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

Everybody has a smart phone today and I’m not even sure you can 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. 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 PlayHome Technology, 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, it’s technology, but it’s not convenient!

This is how Smart Home Technology has really evolved, by putting all these different functions into one dashboard that’s 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’s at the door, turn on the sprinklers, and so much more.

Lutron recently introduced the ability to control their Caseta Wireless lighting system with Google Assisant

The Amazon Echo and Google Assistant (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. Recently 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 to work effectively is an entirely different thing.

The nice benefit of using a Home Integrator is that they can make all these amazing things work seamlessly together. We take the hassle and headache out of installing, configuring, programming, and managing all these so-called “plug n’ play” devices.

The next question that you 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 winner, but it looks like the two biggest players (Amazon and Google) will dominate.

Either one will be a joy to use and happily work with many, many devices. It’s a similar 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.

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