What Options are there for Voice Control in the Custom Home?
Voice control and artificial intelligence are hot topics in tech today. The big mass market companies, such as Amazon, Google, and Apple, are throwing their hats into the ring to try and win market share of this developing technology.
When it comes to high-end custom home control, integrators are trying to find ways to capitalize on this trend and offer an enhanced and magical solution for their clients. For an integrator looking to offer voice control, there is more than one option available.
1. Amazon Alexa + Crestron / Control4
Amazon’s Alexa has been a hit in the 2+ years since it launched. The company has not published sales data, but it is estimated that Amazon has sold millions of Echo devices since launch. Amazon appeared at the CEDIA Expo in 2016 through its keynote and booth that was setup like a mini home. Crestron had a similar booth at ISE in 2017, which you can see here:
Both Crestron and Control4 offer integration with Alexa. Essentially, the control system handles device integration and commands, while Alexa triggers those actions. For example, you can set up a Crestron scene called “good morning”, then hook in Alexa to activate that scene upon the command, “Alexa, good morning.”
Josh.ai takes a slightly different approach to voice control in the home. Instead of layering Amazon’s Alexa on top as the voice interface for the separate control system, Josh.ai comes with its own voice and AI capabilities built right in.
The system was designed to not only provide a delightful experience to the end-client, but also make the voice experience great for the integrator. No need for hardcoded voice commands — this is what the Josh.ai NLP (natural language processing) figures out. Anyone should be able to speak naturally to the system, and the system should figure out the intent no matter how the command is given. To get an idea, here is Josh.ai controlling AV and Netflix:
Josh.ai abstracts all the layers in the home — it understands that it’s in a home, the home has floors, and the floors have rooms. In each room, it understands there are lighting / audio / AV devices. Because everything is viewed abstractly, the system can be much more flexible at handling commands on a device, room, floor, or whole-home level.
Josh.ai is a layer of control that sits on top of all the technology in the home, including other control systems.
In the case of installing with a control system, Josh.ai currently works with both Crestron and Control4. For the Control4 installation, a driver can be installed to the C4 processor. For Crestron, Josh.ai provides a series of modules.
If there is no other control system in the home, Josh.ai is used as the standalone control system, depending on what third-party systems are present (for a complete list of what Josh.ai works with, click here). To install Josh.ai, all you need to do is plug it in to the network. Once the system comes up, it will auto-scan everything on the network and connect to the devices (check out this video of the install process).
The work required for an integrator setting up Josh.ai is mostly related to aliases of room name and device names. For example, most homes have a room called “living room.” While some people in the family may refer to this as the “living room,” others may call it the “family room” or maybe the “TV room.” In any case, the system should be smart enough to understand that each of these names refer to the same room. Josh.ai has made it easy to define these aliases via a web based integrator tool.
Voice is not always the best solution. The client should still be able to use switches, remote controls, and digital UIs for a complete experience. Josh.ai offers more than just a voice interface. There is a full suite of apps on iOS and Android. By installing Josh.ai for a client, you are able to deliver an upgraded user experience through a professionally designed intuitive UI.
The technology behind voice control and natural language processing is developing at a lightning pace. As the big mass market players continue to inspire consumers about the possibility of a voice control experience, we should expect our clients in the luxury market to start asking for these experiences (if they haven’t already). Regardless of what solution you install for your client, it is clear that voice control is not a trend that is likely to fizzle out, but rather an indicator of more advanced home technology that is yet to come.
This was written by Nader who heads Business Development at Josh.ai. Previously, Nader was managing partner at GenYrator and before that he was Vice President / Supervising Execution Trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Nader has an MBA from USC and a BS in Electrical Engineering from UT Austin. He likes to play volleyball, travel, and rock out to pop music.