CE Pro Europe previously reported on reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s interest in technology in the home after her and husband Kanye West shelled out a small fortune on a Prima Cinema system, allowing them to watch films in the privacy of their home cinema the day they are released in commercial movie theatres.
Now it seems that Mrs West is dipping her perfectly manicured toes into the world of home automation, using Amazon’s Echo and its voice assistant, Alexa, in a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to check facts on, well, the Kardashians.
“Alexa: Who is Kourtney Kardashian?” Kim asks, then following up with a question on the (then) impending birth of her second child: “Alexa: What do you do when your water breaks?” – although Alexa was less helpful in her answer having not understood the question.
Kim tries again, asking Alexa how far away the hospital is, allowing her to plan how long it will take to get there when she goes into labour: “Alexa: How far away is Cedar-Sinai from here?”
Voice control is stealing the spotlight at the moment largely due to the existence of Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomeKit software (which uses Siri to control various third-party gadgets), although 2016 has been deemed ‘the year of Alexa’ by home technology industry experts.
Installers and tech-savvy consumers alike will already be familiar with Amazon’s Echo (only currently available in the US), a wireless speaker and voice command device which is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks and providing weather, traffic and other real time information, not to mention its ability to control an ever growing number of smart devices.
The device responds to the name ‘Alexa’; which works as a ‘wake word,’ which can be changed by the user to either ‘Amazon’ or ‘Echo’. All a user need do is command Alexa to search the Internet, or perform a function within the home, and Echo will complete the task.
A few products that can be controlled via Alexa come from manufacturers Belkin (WeMo home electronics), Philips Hue (personal wireless lighting system), Samsung SmartThings (the SmartThings Starter Kit allows a user to monitor, control and secure their home from anywhere), Wink (smart lighting), Insteon (connected home solution), Nest and ecobee (thermostats), Alarm.com (smart home security), Lutron (lighting) and US manufacturer Big Ass Fans (smart fans).
Echo can even count Apple and Sonos as fans, with Sonos CEO John MacFarlane stating: “Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home. Its popularity with consumers will accelerate innovation across the entire industry. What is novel today will become standard tomorrow. Voice is a big change for us, so we’ll invest what’s required to bring it to market in a wonderful way.”
Meanwhile, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks that “it’s the next big platform for the near future,” even using it in his own home. “It’s just become such a wonderful part of our life – not having to lift anything up and speak to things and just speak to it anywhere across a room.”
High profile endorsements such as this can only facilitate in spreading awareness of the home automation sector to a wider audience; certain ‘consumer-focussed’ brands are already household names (think Nest, Philips Hue, and with regards to VR home cinema, the HTC Vive), paving the way for off-the-shelf, customised home automation products to have their share of the limelight.