Smart home technology is an ever-changing field with too many players to count. It’s tough for anyone to keep track of all the details, but smart home builders should at least have the basics covered. The first step is the most important – bringing fiber into the premises. As long as you use high-quality wire management and a WiFi transparent media panel, you know your builds will have top-notch connectivity.
Often customers are also looking for guidance on their smart home. And there are new choices to make all the time. An option on the horizon in smart home delivery is a new kind of integration, voice-controlled intelligence built right into smart home devices.
Today, your customers speak to a virtual assistant requesting changes in lights or music. Tomorrow they will speak directly to the lights or the stereo. To date, the top virtual assistants in the smart home have been Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. But now Samsung is entering the market in a big way with their virtual assistant, Bixby.
You might think this late entry puts Samsung at a disadvantage, but that may not be the case. They already have many Internet of Things (IoT) devices on the market, including their line of SmartThings products. Earlier this year, the company announced that it plans to integrate all of their devices with Bixby by 2020.
Samsung has already been producing select TVs, refrigerators, and washing machines with Bixby voice control. Minor upgrades will grow their list of Bixby-enabled devices. And, according to specs of future products they are adding features that go beyond the capabilities of the Google and Amazon devices. The Bixby speaker may include sensors that detect whether customers are in the room. Whereas the Echo and Google Home devices can pick up human voices, the Bixby may include infrared sensors that will sweep the room.
Several smart home devices are coming to market with Alexa or Google Assistant built in. Both assistants are being integrated with smart lights, smart TVs, smart speakers and smart home security.
iDevice has Alexa built into a light switch that is capable of everything the Amazon Echo can do. It even plays music. The Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablet both have Alexa built in as well.
These third-party speakers also include Alexa:
• Sonos One
• Triby IO Smart Speaker
• Polk Audio Command Soundbar
Alexa has been built into the FirstAlert OneLink Safe & Sound smoke detector, numerous light systems including C by General Electric, and even the Kohler Verdera Mirror.
The Ecobee smart thermostat comes with Alexa built in, and the company plans to release a light switch that also includes Alexa. It’s interesting to note that the Amazon Alexa Fund, a $100 million venture capital fund, invested in Ecobee in March. The Alexa Fund had invested in Ring security before Amazon purchased the company for $1 billion. Perhaps Ecobee will have a similar trajectory.
Garmin and Ford both have car speakers with Alexa built in, and smart watches made by Bragi and Martian will be Alexa-enabled as well.
Google Assistant integrations
Google seems to be lagging somewhat in device integrations. So far Google Assistant has only been built into Hagar Milo speakers and JBLink speakers.
Google recently announced that U.S. customers can turn their Indoor Nest Cam IQ into a fully functional Google Assistant. Lenovo and JBLink both have smart displays with Google Assistant embedded in them. These Android TVs coming to market will also have Assistant installed:
• Sony Bravia
• Phillips OLED
• Sharp Aquos
• Nvidia Shield
And many more Assistant-enabled TVs are expected.
Which system should your customers choose? If they want the virtual assistant with the most intelligence built in, they should consider Bixby. But their best bet is probably to choose one they are most comfortable with.