An intuitive and connected future home and the creature comforts that go with it
The revolution of intuitive hands-free computing is already here.
And it is amazing, points out Mark Warburton from Ivory Egg. It is “the first time people have communicated with computers and machines using our own natural interface instead of a machine interface such as a keyboard, mouse or screen,” he explains.
Our voices are becoming an important medium of interacting with the many machines in our surroundings (at least until controlling them with our minds becomes an option). Leading the way to this new, natural interface era are Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit, virtual personal assistants enabled by wireless speakers. It’s an exciting moment for the industry, with Gartner projecting that by 2020, already 3.3% of global households will have their own virtual assistant.
In an even further step towards the naturalisation of our technological environment, modern domestic living is set to undergo a radical change with the popularisation of the connected home, one that enables the integration of multiple devices, services and apps in real time. The smart home allows different approaches to home automation, entertainment, communication, security, etc., but the focus is mostly on two areas – user comfort and efficient resource usage.
According to BI Intelligence estimates, the demand for smart home solutions will push shipments of connected home devices to a compound annual growth rate of 67% over the 2014–2019 period, but many of these do not support voice interfaces.
That creates enormous business opportunities.
“A seamless, convenient experience”
Jessica Ekholm, Research Director at Gartner, eloquently describes one of the major reasons for the rise of wireless-speaker personal assistants. It all comes down to user comfort: “Having to carry a smartphone around the home, and find the correct app, in order to turn the lights on and off does not amount to a seamless, convenient experience,” she says.
But personal assistants do – supported by significant improvements in word error rates (WER). The improvements in WER brought in by advancements in fields such as artificial intelligence and voice recognition algorithms are significant. In just a bit more than two decades, we have arrived at 4.9% WER from as high as 43%.
This improvement in accuracy through time is making voice assistants more appealing to users and is creating a completely new ecosystem with many integrated 3rd party services. The current leader in building this ecosystem is definitely Amazon’s Alexa, which Reuters writes has a 70.6% market share for voice-controlled speaker-based assistants. The runner-up, Alphabet Inc's Google Home, is trailing with a 23.8% market share.
Amazon’s head start is mostly a consequence of the Alexa Skills Kit that allows developers to build and publish skills for Alexa. This toolkit for building 3rd-party solutions is generating many different services in finance, productivity, food and drink, fitness, travel, entertainment and naturally the smart home; and the numbers are growing. Voicebot.ai reports a tenfold increase from a few thousand to tens of thousands of applications from May 2016 to February 2017, with the last number from 23 February 2017 also including skills from Germany and UK.
CNBC reports that in 2020, Amazon alone will sell 60 million devices and reach 500 million active customers globally, assuming a 40% adoption rate in the US and 25% internationally. With Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others following with their own ecosystems and solutions, it makes it safe to conclude that voice assistants are coming into our lives, homes and making an appearance everywhere else fast and in large numbers. Many businesses and industries will have to adapt to that and evolve their products for the new interface – voice.
So, now that we’ve covered the interfaces, what about the market for the second ingredient of the modern smart home? Connected devices such as sensors, lights, monitors, cameras, energy meters, energy equipment, smart appliances, safety and security systems and the communication protocols between them. What’s happening here?
In terms of communication protocols between connected devices the lead in North America goes to proprietary protocols, while KNX is at the forefront in China and Europe, with ZigBee, Z-Wave, WiFi Bluetooth and others following.
The value of the global market for Smart Home and Light Commercial solutions is forecasted to rise by 20% to $15.8 billion in 2017, with stand-alone products being the segment with the largest growth – 27%, according to a BSRIA study published by the KNX Association. The same study forecasts that by 2021 the total global market will almost double to $29.8 billion.
The next step
With more and more smart devices in homes, the importance of standardised communication protocols and centralised hubs will inherently become even more important component for utilising the modern home.
These two components have been written in KNX’s DNA more than 20 years ago so it is that more important for the ecosystem to make a step into the forefront of this new era and support companies that bridge the gap between connected home and intuitive interface.
With this step KNX world will ensure future growth of the standard, broaden its appeal to new customers, gain the ability to offer new services to existing customers, add new possibilities to your smart home portfolio and make smart homes even smarter.
At Voxior we have successfully launched Alexa for Gira Homeserver and X1 without any additional hardware - with other solutions soon to follow. If you consider that our solutions come equipped with a tool for remote onboarding of customers and their efficient management, you will see that this is a solution ready for business.
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