What are the big developments in smart home technology? And what’s on the horizon in the next year or two?
Gordon van Zuiden, founder of the San Francisco home technology company cyberManor, has the answer to both questions: Voice control.
The range of devices that can be controlled by voice is limitless. Stoves and fridges have joined smart thermostats and lighting in the category of appliances that can be adjusted by speaking. Simply put: If it’s got power, there’s the potential for voice control.
“What’s happening right now is that voice control is evolving the same way that the personal computer or the internet did when they were first introduced: Things begin as complex systems, become simplified, and then so ubiquitous we don’t even think about their presence much,” said van Zuden.
“We’re in the transition phase from complex to simple when it comes to voice control. It’s a march towards the ‘frictionless home’. A march toward the ultimate goal of: ‘I think something. I want something. It should do something,’” he said.
For van Zuiden, that frictionless home will allow immediate recognition of a user’s wants: Can one family member say “Hey, Mom?” while that person’s in their bedroom — and have Mom appear on a video screen from the kitchen, for example?
That day’s coming soon, and it will require thoughtful design.
Whether remodeling a home or building a new one, early consultation with an integrator is important. Voice control devices are yet another stressor on residential Wi-Fi, and having an integrator "prewire" a home will provide much more reliable performance and help solve the issues of interoperability: With more and more disparate — and complex — devices being pitched to the consumer, the chances that those things won’t “talk” to one another rises exponentially.
A good home technology integrator can ensure that the end result isn’t a pile of frustrating gadgets, but rather a terrific smart home experience. Consultation at the outset can hold down costs and — more importantly — reduce client frustration.
Eventually — and that moment isn’t far off at all — voice control will begin to recognize individuals in the home, and then interact with individuals in a more personal manner. That platform, whatever its name might be, will know who it’s talking to, and know that user’s preferences, from music to movies to lighting and shopping lists. Voice control — when coupled with other sensors — will ultimately become a virtual assistant.
The elegant summation from van Zuiden: “It’s home as personal concierge.”