In the age of Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod and Google Home, it’s hard to imagine how any company can hope to find a space in the market to launch another smart assistant. Fortunately, Josh.ai has just bolstered its war chest with an additional $8 million of funding to build an assistant specifically for controlling the smart home. That brings total funding to $11M
While Josh.ai is just a tiny start-up when compared to the giants of Amazon, Apple and Google, the company is backed by some serial entrepreneurs. Alex Capecelatro, the company’s CEO, and Tim Gill, CTO, have previously worked together building the mildly-popular ‘Tinder for Places’, Yeti app. Having sold that app, Josh.ai is the pair’s latest project.
With the smart home market estimated to be worth almost $150 billion globally by 2020, it’s not all that surprising that the duo turned their skills to developing for the connected home market. Rather than simply launch a new smart home device, however, the team behind Josh.ai have set their hopes on building a better voice-control system for smart homes. That puts them firmly in Amazon Alexa territory.
Josh.ai will be extremely different to Alexa and Google Home, however. While those two devices will always be for the masses, Josh.ai is hoping to carve itself a niche in the professionally-installed home automation market. That means it has to work with the likes of Crestron, Control4 and Savant.
“I was just amazed that all of the big automation systems – Crestron, Control4, and Savant – they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the [user interface] looks like it’s from the 90’s,” he says in a statement to TechCrunch.
“It was weird that for a ton of money in my home where you want to have a delightful experience, the best offerings on the table just weren’t that good.”
Sitting above the mass market solutions may be the end-goal for Josh.ai, but with some predicting the cannibalisation of the high-end automation market, it’s a risky bet. Amazon has already wooed most of the big name home automation manufacturers, including Crestron, Control4 and Savant, so Josh.ai will need to find a way to best its much larger competitors.
This isn’t the company’s first rodeo, however. That’s because last year Josh.ai officially launched its first product, a smart home kit to control the home through a Mac Mini and iPad. That kit got to work as soon as it was plugged in, auto-discovering devices from over 50 manufacturers that are already on the network. After discovering those devices, the software could then control lighting, music, heating, and AV systems.
As part of the $11M of funding, Josh.ai hopes to push its technology away from a Mac-based client. Instead, the company hopes to launch an Amazon Echo-esque device that will house its smart home AI. Currently the technology is partly run in the cloud and locally, and it’s likely that will remain the same with the new device – with the automatic speech recognition occurring in the cloud and natural language processing happening locally.
It’s not known when Josh.ai plans to launch its new device, although the company’s founder has noted that it will be a premium device. That means it’s unlikely to threaten the proliferation of Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.