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Smart Speakers Dumbed Down

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Smart Speakers Dumbed Down

What’s a Smart Speaker?

Smart Speakers are wireless speakers with a voice interface and underlying Artificial Intelligence.  Amazon created this category with the introduction of the Amazon Echo in 2014.  The main purpose of the Echo started out as a streaming service, streaming music from Amazons music service Amazon Prime Music.  Another attractive feature of smart speakers is that they respond to voice commands, from just about anywhere in audio range so you don’t have to be right next to the device to interface with it.

 

But Why Are They Becoming So Popular?

Several aspects of smart speakers has led to the rapid increase in popularity

 

Voice Activation

 Voice interfacing is becoming more advanced and more accurate, and is an attractive means of controlling a device…. When it works

 

Artificial Intelligence

Connecting to the cloud allows the smart speaker access to a larger resource database and more computer power of to respond to a wide range of questions in a more natural conversational sense, such as “do I need an umbrella today”?  Yes this is much like Siri.

 

Interfacing With 3rd Party Hardware

 Several smart speakers on the market can now interface with products from other manufacturers, supported by a healthy and growing list of device manufacturers with complaint interfaces for control via the smart speaker.  The meteoric expansion in the number of home networks, and the corresponding growth in  Wi-Fi enabled smart home automation devices is opening a wealth of possibilities for voice control over many aspects of your house, from lighting, heating/cooling to home security and safety devices.  More and more devices, including household appliances, are becoming Wi-Fi enabled with intelligence and potentially controllable by smart speakers.

 

Interfacing With The Cloud 

 Innovative sites like If This Then That (IFTTT.com) produce applets connecting smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo, to other services and resources software such as spreadsheets, calendars, fitness tracker databases etc.  Just talk to the Echo to set a reminder, check your activity levels, save data to a spreadsheet etc.

 

 

Main Players

 

Amazon

Amazon started the smart speaker revolution with the Amazon Echo released in 2014, a smart speaker with AI through Amazon’s Alexia service.  Amazon has also released the Amazon Dot a smaller version of the Amazon Echo with the same functionality and connectivity to other wireless speakers.

Amazon Echo

 

Google

Google was asleep at the wheel on smart speakers and left playing catch-up to the success of the Amazon Echo.  The Google Home was introduced in 2016.  The Home follows in the same vein as the Echo, being a voice activated smart speaker  but of course uses Google’s AI, Google Assistant, which is developing quickly in terms of humanising voice interactions.  It also streams music, like the Echo, interfaces with some smart home devices, but not as many as the Echo, and interfaces nicely with some cloud services, particularly the Google owned ones for say making diary notes, calendar appointments, lists etc.

 

Google Home

And the Others?

There are many wireless speakers on the market, but few with the add-on smart features that the Amazon Echo and Google Home bring to the table.  However, other companies which are also developing smart speaker products include:

  • Lenovo Smart Assistant
  • LG Hub Robot
  • Harman Kardon Cortana speaker

 

 

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The Take Away

  1. Smart Speakers are now capable of functioning as the central interface for your entertainment and controlling automated home devices.  The ability to control many aspects of your home environment by voice command is certainly attractive to many people as the first players in this area are rapidly increasing market penetration.
  2. The capability to control and interface with home automation devices is a rapidly growing ecosphere as home automation is becoming cheaper and easier to install, with some pretty impressive systems in the home security, lighting, audio/visual and utilities control that can be installed DIY by a reasonably handy person.
  3. Amazon started a revolution in smart speakers, and other companies such as Google are now playing catch up.  With two such well-resourced and well-funded companies leading the charge it will be interesting to see how this smart speaker market segment evolves over the short and longer term. 
  4. Whilst device aesthetics and quality may be a guiding factor in customer choice, the accuracy of the voice interface and ability of the underlying AI to naturally interpret voice conversations may well be the defining aspect of the most successful product.  If this is true Google, with its well-developed Google Assistant and enormous database of information and cloud services will be hard to beat in the long run.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions. 

 

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