Voice Control: Securely Automating the Home of the Future

By Special Guest
Greg Rhoades, Director, Marketing, Leviton Energy Management, Controls & Automation
June 22, 2017

What the smartphone did for home automation ten years ago, making it more understandable and accessible to consumers, is now happening with voice control. None of us are born with keyboards or touchscreens for hands, but most of us already yell at or speak to our devices – now they can actually respond.

The natural way to interact with anyone or anything is voice, so it’s no surprise that products like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant have started to make their way into the smart home space. Now you can tell your devices to dim your lights or adjust the heat. It’s only a matter of time before you can talk to your oven to start preheating or to set a timer. However, a recent Gartner study found 75% of consumers are happy to manually set temperature and lighting. While voice control in the home has many benefits, we must first overcome some of the inherent challenges in order to reap the benefits.

There are many opportunities for voice integration in the smart home. Many customers today are already controlling their temperature, lights, and more. As well, more and more consumers are utilizing easy voice ordering of consumer goods for home delivery – it’s never been easier to buy something. Finally, health and wellness applications allow for unique telehealth doctor/patient interaction which is thrilling as it brings many prospects for the future of healthcare.

In the smart home, some advanced consumers are expressing privacy concerns with devices connected to the cloud. Manufacturers and platforms each utilize different methodologies and philosophies for protecting user data. All companies and platforms take privacy into account and implement various security methods, encryptions, and support infrastructures to accommodate. Apple famously does not share customer information, even with the government. Choose a platform and manufacturer that values your privacy and security and does not sell or share the information. Read the small print in the terms of service and ensure your information and home is safe. Still concerned? Use a product like Bluetooth that allows for local app control and schedules but doesn’t connect to the cloud or provide voice access. Local control (sans voice) can still be fun and functional.

There’s also the concern with “Always On” commandability of voice assistants. Meaning, many of these devices are almost always passively listening for their “wake word” (Alexa, OK Google, Hey Siri). If this is an apprehension, simply mute the device when not needed, or use a plug-in module and cut the power entirely to smart devices that have cameras and microphones. They’re yours, take control and use the provided features and settings to customize.

Voice is a source of comfort for even the most technology-laggard consumers. As voice integration becomes more sophisticated, the associated challenges will lessen and lead to higher adaptation rates of smart home technology. In fact, voice control will continually make marked advancements to enhance the consumer experience. For instance, we will see the ability to decipher family member voices and provide unique controls based on the user, the ability to utilize in a commercial space and ignore voices that aren’t permitted on the system, the ability to create conversations with the voice assistant with improved memory and recollection, impressive scene creation across the property, and overall improvements to the convenience and reliability aspects.

Using voice assistants like Google’s Home, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon’s Alexa can be a lot of fun. Saying, “OK Google, turn everything off” is a wonderful way to end the night. Stop walking around the house turning devices off, only to walk around in the morning and turn them all back on again. When you hear a bump in the night, simply say, “Alexa, turn all lights on” to shine a light on the situation. Use your voice and take control.

About the Author: Greg Rhoades is the Director of Marketing for Leviton Energy Management, Controls & Automation, providing expert commentary on the smart home. Having spent over ten years in the high end automation world coordinating training and marketing efforts, Greg holds several home and technology certifications.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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