Remember when the Roomba first came out in 2002? The first vacuuming robot attracted early adopters eager to hand off housecleaning tasks to a smart appliance. The prospect of a smart home, with robots doing all the work to clean and keep its inhabitants comfortable and safe, had arrived. Now, IoT (Internet of Things) Technology is rapidly gaining popularity inside the home. Everything from air quality monitors, thermostats, cameras and alarms are equipped with technology consumers can control from a smart phone or computer.
If you haven’t made the investment in creating a programmable, smart home yet, you may soon have no excuse for putting it off. The introduction of two new pieces of voice-operated hardware will allow you to integrate information and applications as easily as you access them from your phone or tablet.
These low-cost gadgets help make the transition toward ever more seamless communication between our home environments, the appliances and products in them, and ourselves.
Take the Amazon Echo, priced at $199 ($99 for Amazon Prime members). While this cylindrical device may not seem like more than a 3-D Siri, the main benefit to consumers is getting used to hands-free, ubiquitous access to everything from a web search to simple commands.
Most of the requests have to do with accessing information or music, thus the low price tag. However, the ability to do so without clutching a device frees up hands for other things, as we discover facts, makes lists, request songs, and ask questions in real time. Imagine being able to call up a cocktail recipe while stirring up some guacamole. Or helping with your 6th grader’s science project as you finish your magazine article. Or adding a phone number to your contacts, or an item to your shopping list – all without picking up a pen or a phone.
Will this ability to multitask decrease stress levels in your home and add to your efficiency, or will the heightened verbal noise and easy access to information detract from the environment? Only you can know, but the discovery is worth the small price tag of Amazon’s voice-activated, talking info center.
Another new voice-activated device for homes is called the Ubi, and while it’s slightly higher in price than the Echo, it can command other devices in addition to supplying information or access to data and content.
For example, the Ubi allows you to enter commands to various apps you already use, and even allows access to several other popular apps like:
- Harmony’s open API platform, which helps integrate appliances and high tech equipment for the home.
- The Nest thermostat.
- The Smart Things and If This Then That apps that control over 100 products by various manufacturers and dozens of apps, respectively.
The Ubi accepts simple commands that begin to bring your home to life. While previous conflicting platforms in the IoT world have required pricy, personalized development to make them work, most average homes did without.
Now, Ubi is changing that, allowing virtually any consumer to speak a command and have the lights come on, or the heat on the stove turned down. No longer does early adoption of the Internet of Things require an investment in custom IT. Because this gadget is easy to use, and easy on the pocketbook (it retails for $299) communication is now possible between household things, and in response to our simple commands like never before.
Expect snags. Products are not yet standardized. Competing open and closed source platforms still make it difficult to acquire the right appliance for the best situation. But progress is being made. Corporations like Samsung espouse friendly integration and open access to all products, so the consumer embraces IoT technology and discovers an easier, not more complicated lifestyle.
The products you buy in the near future will connect with each other like a team of robots that know how you live and work, and accommodate your schedule. Voice activated information centers like the Echo and Ubi introduce homeowners to that new way of life.
What about you? Are you ready to jump in? Or are you still holding out for a more standardized, seamless relationship with your things? If you’re one of the early adopters of IoT technology in Austin, chime in with your advice and comments, please!
2. Amazon Echo
7. IFTTT app