A few years ago, the idea of a fully connected home probably seemed excessive, not to mention expensive. For most people, the idea of a fully teched-up household was confined to the realms of science-fiction rather than reality.
But, in a relatively short amount of time, smart devices in the home have become well and truly mainstream. Sure, we’ve still got a long way to go before the robot butler moves in, but more and more user-friendly products are hitting the market that are intuitive, useful and look like they could have real staying power.
Although there are all kinds of connected appliances nowadays – from plugs to hubs – the voice-controlled AI systems from tech giants Amazon and Google are quickly bridging the gap between what people want and what the available tech can deliver. Such devices are rapidly becoming a key component in smart home tech adoption.
Now that Apple has announced it’ll be joining the fray with its new HomePod, let’s take a look at the five ways in which the smart home is becoming more useful than many naysayers could ever have imagined and is in no small way thanks to our voice-controlled friends Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
More competition = better products
Amazon’s Dot and Echo, the Google Home and now the Apple HomePod. It might get more confusing for consumers to figure out which product they need, but an increasingly crowded market means that prices are coming down and brands are competing to offer the best possible user experience. Of course, this one-upmanship might be tough keep up forever, but it’s great for consumers and provides a playground of opportunities for hardware and software developers as constantly look to enhance their offering.
Tapping into current ecosystems
All of the top voice-controlled products on (or about to hit) the market are unsurprisingly from the biggest tech brands. This means there’s a ready-made ecosystem behind each device that makes connecting up products, services and apps simpler than ever. This seamless integration into our personal Internet of Things will mean our reliance on such products develops quickly, meaning they’re likely to be permanent fixtures before long.
Opening up tech to developers, brands, and average Joes
Whilst the unicorns dominate the current market, it doesn’t mean to say third parties can’t get in on the action. And, incidentally, it’s one of these players which is doing the most to foster competition and innovation in the market. This month, Amazon launched the Alexa Skills Kit (nicknamed ASK), so that designers, developers, and other brands can build ‘skills’ – which are like automated commands – for their customers. This is a great step in opening up Amazon’s tech to a wider pool of talent, giving consumers more choice and developers more opportunities.
Learning, growing and becoming more human
Also this month, Amazon added support for reminders and timers, allowing users to set more than one timer, name them and then also ask Alexa to “remind me” instead of “set a timer”. This may seem like a small addition, but it’s significant and points to Amazon learning and adapting from user feedback to make Alexa’s support more useful – and more human. Such advances are sure to be emulated by the other home-tech players.
Appealing to all kinds of consumers
As well as adding the new reminders and timers, Amazon has been busy with its new Echo Show. As you might guess, it’s an Amazon Echo with a connected screen. This opens up a slew of possibilities; from giving you an at-home shopping experience through to using it as a video chat device, or relying on it to find things to watch on a bigger screen – the options are endless. What the addition of a screen points to is an understanding that all consumers are different and will be using home tech for different things.
It’s this kind of choice-centric, innovation-led thinking that’ll ensure the smart home has real longevity. By opening up eco-systems to developers, learning from consumers and being willing to evolve, we can be sure that the home-tech revolution is just getting started.