If you’re a builder, architect, or interior designer, perhaps you’ve seen your clients interest in smart home technology rising over the last few years. These days, when the average consumer thinks of “smart home”, they are probably thinking about what the technology community calls the Internet of Things (IoT).
Amazon’s Echo was the best selling gift of the 2016 holiday season. When you think about the technology available for as little as $50 (for the Amazon Dot), it really is pretty amazing. The ability to ask it to order a package of toilet paper and have it show up in a day or even a few hours is pretty incredible. With the busy lifestyles of your clients, it has a very high adoption rate in their households.
We are seeing all kinds of new products come on the market in this category, many coming from Kickstarter campaigns. So what do you, as a trusted advisor for your clients, need to know about this new category of voice control technology?
The good news is, all of these new gadgets are relatively small in size and use wireless technology, so they require little to no real planning to place them in a home. Most of them just need an outlet. Voice control units like Alexa and Google Home can live on a cabinet or countertop.
How Are People Using Products Like Alexa in Their Homes?
Some of the more popular features allow users to ask about the weather, news, and sports. The ability to quickly request an Uber or Lyft has taken off faster than Amazon expected. Dominoes is very happy with the adoption of quick pizza ordering. Controlling thermostats and lights is also on a pretty big uptick. And apparently asking for corny jokes is happening in lots of homes all over the country.
At Audio Advice, we started experimenting with Alexa the day if was first available. Being tech gadget lovers, we could not resist. With regard to running a Smart Home, there seems to be an inverse relationship to the size of the home and how successful Alexa will be in managing your home without creating frustration. Why is this? Well, if the human brain were a computer, it would be no issue. But since our memory is not always 100%, in a large home, we need to remember lots and lots of phrases for Alexa to work properly.
When you set Alexa up to control your lights, for example, you need to name each room and then each lighting circuit. In a high-end custom home, you may have 8-10 circuits of lights in the kitchen alone. When you want Alexa to control those lights, you have to tell it the room and the circuit name. And right now, you have to be pretty precise in these names. Ordering a pepperoni pizza from Dominos is far easier than remembering to say turn on the kitchen center island cans.
What is a True Smart Home?
Is turning on or dimming lights with voice control really “smart” or just “cool”? Turning all the lights in your home off would be smart, but just one? Maybe that is just cool.
At Audio Advice, we think “smart” goes something like this:
You arm your alarm system for “away”, which means you are leaving home. Pushing “away” turns off all the TV’s and music systems playing in your home. Five minutes afterwards, the system sets the lights to play back your last week of what you did with the lights, making it look like someone is in the house. When you return and open the door, before you even touch the alarm panel, the system turns on the lights in the hall so you can see, then when you disarm, it takes your lighting back to normal and stops playing the scenes.
With a true “smart home” system this is all easily possible.
Can’t You Do All of This Using IoT Technology?
IoT gadgets connect to the cloud and, in theory, are supposed to have the ability to talk to each other. With enough programming skills and patience, it might be possible for a very tech-savvy homeowner to accomplish some of what we described above. They would need to know just the right products to buy (from a variety of different manufacturers), how to tie them all together, and how to set up code that uses conditional logic. Then there is the risk that one device updates its firmware which changes the way it talks to other devices thus, breaking what had been set up. We’ve seen this happen over and over.
Security Issues Make Them Even Riskier
Many of the companies manufacturing these products did not exist even a year ago. Many will not exist a year from now. Yet, they are entering the market at a torrid pace. We even saw at the last CES show, a widget you put over the knobs on your stove so you can tell Alexa to turn the knob. The problem with this landslide of new products is there is currently no standard on how to prevent hackers from getting into your home.
The good news is, there are a handful of Smart Home companies who have been around for years and care about the security of their customers and the long term viability of their products.
Their products have also proven to be very reliable over time. These include companies Lutron, Control 4, Savant, and Crestron. Audio Advice is the largest Smart Home integrator in the Carolina's and we work closely with all of these brands.
Homeowners that love their Alexa will be glad to know that all of these systems can easily integrate to utilize Alexa voice control! At this point, that’s the best way to use Alexa -- as a voice control module, not as the brain of your home.
For your clients considering making their home smarter, there are many options. We regularly partner with builders, architects, and interior designers to design state-of-the-art custom homes. We will work with you to improve your client's lifestyle without affecting the aesthetic integrity of the home’s design.
If you're in the Raleigh or Charlotte area and would like to learn more, reach out to us. We are always happy to set up a time to go into more detail on what is currently available that will give your customers the long term satisfaction that generates referrals for your business. If you need immediate assistance, chat with us now.