Smarter Smart Homes as Voice Activated and AI Enhanced Services Hit the Market

By Cynthia S. Artin January 17, 2019

Universal Electronics (UEI) last week introduced officially their new cloud-based, AI platform for the connected home.

Nevo Butler is an end-to-end voice-enabled hub with a built-in white label assistant that integrates AV and IoT technologies to configure both legacy and smart devices around the home, allowing the user to control numerous appliances purely with their voice, the company said in an announcement last week. They will be demonstrating the system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas.

As a far-field voice assistant, this platform will also enable service providers to offer voice assistant capabilities for content discovery and control to their existing Pay-TV households without the need to upgrade current equipment.

The solution is not limited to connected entertainment devices.

Going beyond voice-enabled entertainment device and control, Nevo Butler is being offered in channel-specific kits bundled with a range of certified devices that include safety and security sensors, energy management controllers, and IoT lighting products.

“With Nevo Butler, we are delivering on the promise of unifying experiences across devices in the home - the entertainment device where consumers spend nearly 5 hours a day – and other smart home devices and services” said Arsham Hatambeiki, SVP of Product and Technology for Universal Electronics Inc.  “This solution puts brands back at the forefront of the consumer experience, enabling consumers to interact with products and services without going through a single, global service and brings with it the confidence of device compatibility and interoperability.”

As a managed, white label smart home hub with a built-in digital assistant, the company says the systems will allow smart home brands to “efficiently and securely manage their installed base of devices and address the expanding consumer demand for cross-brand interoperability with existing digital assistants and smart home hubs through the QuickSet Interoperability as a Service program.”

When asked about live human support as part of this new service, Kuldip Singh Johal, Vice President Sales – Subscription Broadcasting for UEI explained, “While there isn’t a live human support center, the live AI aspect of the Nevo Butler hub has the intelligence to continuously learn and adapt to guide the customer through diagnosing and fixing issues. Service providers also work through back end of the cloud to resolve issues.”

Time will tell if the system is so super intuitive that live humans won’t be needed at all, given advanced voice control and AI assistance handling all issues with no escalation, for example.

The company says the product is “very much designed to simplify the whole process of setting up IOT devices where these would be done with a simple voice command – which in turn would drive down trouble calls, reduce operational costs and drive up revenue.”

“Through intelligent backend AI integration,” Singh Johal also said, “a customer could diagnose and fix problems and issues by making the system talk them through the issue and how to resolve it. This again would increase customer satisfaction and reduce operational costs as well as churn.”

The company also envision innovations being built on their platform, including support of ordering a product when the customer sees an advertisement on TV, or subscribing to additional services from their service provider.

The offer has been designed for both residential and hospitality segment applications, as “it opens the door to offering converged services across entertainment, home safety and security, energy management, and more.”

A new industry research report from international firm Parks Associates shows nearly 75% of the consumers planning to buy a smart home device consider it important for their purchase to work with other products in their home.  This demand for interoperability is stronger than brand loyalty, as less than 60% of smart home shoppers consider it important that their future purchases be the same brand as their current products.

“As smart home devices proliferate, interoperability is the key to creating true smart home systems.  Consumer adoption of smart home products is driving expectations that devices work together seamlessly.  Consumers are buying outside of a single brand’s ecosystem, so they are demanding product interoperability,” said Brad Russell, Research Director, Connected Home, Parks Associates.

Nevo Butler also comes pre-integrated with digital assistant offered as a white label service to deliver branded and customized experiences and is capable of supporting other voice assistants in the platform to address the growing consumer demand for choice and access to domain specific assistants and services.

Nevo Butler supports a cloud-based, natural language interface to enable conversational device interactions, but also adds offline pre-defined voice commands to ensure a reliable interface to smart home services, even when the Internet is down.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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