Voice user interfaces: will they soon become the heart of a Smart Home?

One of the technological and commercial challenges faced in recent years is voice user interfaces. However, we will have to wait until the end of 2018 for a breakthrough.

29/10/2018  |  Fantini Cosmi Reading time

Voice user interfaces are closer to reality than we might think and are already available today. We have all tried “talking to our smartphone” to see what happens just for the sake of fun. Once we have satisfied our curiosity, we will find that they can be quite useful. For example, we can easily set our sat-nav by saying “go home”, dictate a message or do a quick Internet search.

And yet, we have barely scratched the surface of this technology’s potential. Try to imagine what else you could do if Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana or Alexa were able to respond to commands such as “turn on the heating at home at 4 p.m. today” or “close the blinds”.


Vocal smart homes are now becoming a reality

In the very near future, all of this will be possible. And the future is so close that all we need to do is buy one of the many voice control hubs on the market, also known as smart speakers, to start using a voice command system in our smart home.


The vocal assistants available in Italy

In 2018, most manufacturers started selling their smart speakers also in Italy: these are actually hubs from which cloud-based smart home management unfolds. This configuration is now offered by all manufacturers, with a number of practical advantages.

Google Home and Apple Homepod are the only solutions currently available in Italy. The third key player is Amazon, with the Echo line expected to arrive before the end of the year 2018.  With this last addition, the picture will be complete.


Are voice user interfaces universally compatible?

History tends to repeat itself, even in the case of smart homes. As we said, the challenge will be a commercial one rather than a technological one. Of course, voice user interface manufacturers want to build customer loyalty, also by offering exclusive products and features. After all, independent device manufacturers (e.g. Philips with its Hue lamps) strive to offer products designed to be as universal as possible.

In any case, for the time being, the outlook is positive: consortia such as IEEE and ZigBee, for example, have made great efforts in terms of facilitating a shared, compatible system. In short, commercial aspects aside, users should be able to choose their supplier freely, even in the future.


Voice user interfaces, the “smart” challenge?

Today, thanks to voice user interfaces, smart homes offer a wide range of possibilities and opportunities compared to the past. As the first features based on artificial intelligence begin to appear, the outlook is quite promising.

As we have seen, it is already possible for a voice assistant to respond to more advanced commands than in the past: we can ask a voice assistant to turn off the lights, turn on the stereo or the TV, or close the blinds. And we can set a specific time too.
In the near future, using commands such as “turn on the heating an hour later tonight and set the bathroom to 24 degrees because I want to take a shower after the gym” could be a likely possibility.
Several manufacturers already offer the option of using “scenarios” or “presets” so that, for example, a temperature and lighting type can be linked to other actions, as in a playlist on a streaming service.

Soon enough, this will all be within everyone’s reach, by simply using our voice.

Fantini Cosmi is also gearing up for this.


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