Amazon Alexa, Google Home and the new trend of voice control

amazon-echo-google-home

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!

 

 

2 comments

  • Ncube Home

    Thanks David for your positive feedback and for sharing your opinion!

  • David Tarrant

    Voice control is great, but is best when it is on your wrist. My number one use for my Apple Watch is to control all my home automation, including my wonderful nCube.

    Honestly, what is the point of voice control if it only works in certain rooms, or when you are in the house? I’ve often just left the house and wondered if I turned everything off? But now I’m driving and using a mobile gets you in trouble! No worries a quick “Hey Siri, turn all the lights out at home” and boom, done!

    It might sound like I have bought an entirely Apple HomeKit solution here but you would be wrong, not a single bit of it. You would be right however in the fact that I’ve used another Raspberry Pi to created a HomeKit bridge to all the devices I can possibly control. “Hey siri, turn the tv and sky box off is one of my favourites!”.

    What do I use nCube for? I use it to interface and manage all the devices it can (z-wave, zigbee etc) to do the more advanced features like “Turn the pond pump on 1 hour after sunrise and turn it off half an hour after sunset” (algae only grows in the sun!). The people at nCube are right, the control should all be in your home, not in the cloud!

    What do I think of voice control? It should work everywhere but not be always listening. I work on this logic, the Apple Watch only listens when the display is on (if it listened all the time the battery life would be horrific!). I don’t have Siri enabled on my phone and have no other devices that I know are listening (e.g. Echo, Google home etc). Protecting peoples rights and privacy is important and paying attention to GDPR is important to me.

    Well done nCube Home!

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