Amazon Alexa, Google Home and the new trend of voice control
If you know of nCube then we assume with almost 100% certainty that you also know of Amazon Echo (inhabited by Alexa) and probably Google Home too and perhaps even Samsung Bixby although so far she/he/it resides on Android phones not at-home in a smart home speaker.
Amazon have reportedly sold over 4 million Echo’s already and Google Home launches in the UK this week so we assume they’ll target similarly large figures.
What we don’t know is how anyone feels about a company like Google learning even more about our lifestyles - good read on Wired (https://www.wired.com/2016/10/new-google-hardware-trojan-horse-ai/) why Google are getting into this for example; do we want Google in every room of the house?
Talking to Alexa is a great experience - we have a couple in the office and regularly take ‘her’ with us to events such as at a recent Wired Tech Salon at Wired’s office and some of the shows we’ve done. Our integration is under progress and we hope to push out a software update launching integration in May. But we’re still as committed as before to keep developing the usability of the nCube app for a few really important reasons:
- Alexa only works when you’re at home; or rather within shouting distance. As a voice interface, it’s designed to work locally. If you want to warm the house up on the way home or put a few lights on, you’ll need to revert to app access - either the native app for each device or an aggregation app such as nCube.
- Most voice interfaces are processing the speech (once the keyword is triggered) on their servers not locally so you’re dependent on a good internet connection.
- The main popular devices are compatible such as Tado and Hue but smart home devices integrated using Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Zigbee etc can’t connect directly and instead connect through a hub such as nCube.
Whilst on the subject of aggregation the other growing method is app-only (i.e. no hub in the home) where an independent app uses their own servers to integrate to the servers to then connect to compatible lights and thermostats etc. There’s a few downsides to this which is why nCube is a hub:
- Those extra server-to-server connections all cause more delays in getting a lightbulb to turn on and greater likelihood that at any one moment something isn’t going to work somewhere in the chain.
- They’re not able to connect to the set of other technologies referred to above such as Bluetooth, Z-Wave and Zigbee.
- Increased risk of privacy and security problems in the interconnect between systems due to being server-side connection.
On that last point, we’re defining how the EU GDPR (http://www.eugdpr.org/the-regulation.html) affects the smart home - more to come in a future article.
What do you think about the new voice control trend? we'd love to hear from you!