If there is one aspect of voice control/personal assistants that really stood out in terms of announcements, it was the number of companies now supporting Amazon Alexa.
This is a world where the major players are Amazon Echo/Alexa, Apple HomeKit/Siri, and newer, less talked about, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s new initiative, simply named – Google. There are also a number of smaller companies trying to establish themselves with their own voice systems. I think though, with these big players all vying for attention, the little guys are going to have to come up with a far more intuitive voice control system than anything we’ve seen so far.
Apple is encouraging companies to make their product meet HomeKit standards which offers some real pluses, Amazon’s Alexa is more about easy interfacing to others standards. In other words, it’s relatively easy to for companies to work with Alexa, compared to Siri.
As those of you who follow our site know, I’ve got products from at least a dozen companies running in our “dream home” project (my house) that I can talk to through Alexa. That’s probably 3X the number that respond to Siri, although some/many of those companies are committed to supporting HomeKit right now.
Both for example work with Lutron which uses a proprietary system. Both Personal Assistants work great with Lutron. On the other hand, the WeMo products from Belkin ar easily controlled by Alexa, but do not support Siri.
What I noticed at this show, however, was that a number of big league players have added Alexa support, including big name “old school” (aka expensive) home automation companies such as Crestron and Control 4. Add to that Savant and LeGrand. Of course we’ve long ago reported that Philips Hue, and LIFX’s lights, SmartThing’s and Wink’s (Z-Wave/Wifi, etc.) hubs can be controlled by Alexa. A goodly number of other companies, large and small – some old school, some newer, crowdsourced companies, were proudly announcing Alexa compatibility.
On the Apple Siri side, Crestron does support Siri, but nothing yet from Control4. Philips Hue lighting, yes, LIFX will with future products, but not their current smart lights.
My impression is that Apple has the clout to be highly successful running your house, despite the slower start. In part that is, of course, due to having an incredibly loyal base. So while Siri is (pretty) sure to be a big success in running your home, it’s starting to look, right now, like Alexa is the 800 pound Gorilla (no offense to the noble gorilla), when it comes to voice control of your Smart Home.
From a practical standpoint, I have an Amazon Echo in my home theater, I placed their Dot where our kitchen opens into a large living room, and we have one voice remote.
I use Alexa far more than Siri, because while a number of my devices can be controlled by Siri, pretty much all of them can be controlled by Alexa. I tend to use Siri, primarily in parts of the house where my Amazon products are just too far away. That includes a number of bedrooms, my testing room, and a small office. I also can’t “reach” Alexa from much of my living room unless I really shout, which is rude! In our house, to really cover it all with Alexa, I would need at least 9 devices, and two for the outside (nothing waterproof yet).
On the other hand, while I don’t own an Apple Watch to control Siri, my iPhone is always on me. So, for example I can adjust my Lutron and Lightify outside lighting with Siri, without going inside. Since my phone is in my pocket normally, I do have to pull it out to “Hey Siri” or hold down the button to activate Siri. Still that beats having to walk to a different room.
In other words, Amazon needs to work through other devices, theirs or others, to handle outdoors, and other rooms. I do plan, btw, to add at least one more Dot, to fully cover my living room.
Apple, on the other hand also has a weak spot, and that is their lack of support from several of the major Z-Wave hubs out there, such as Samsung’s SmarThings which I’m using and reviewing, and the WINK hub which Dave just reviewed after owning it for more than a year.
Interestingly, Amazon had a booth at CEDIA just for Alexa. I didn’t notice any other presence for Amazon there other than signs of support for Alexa in other companies’ booths. Also though, an Amazon exec – Charlie Kindel – did Friday’s keynote speech (which I missed, sorry). I wanted to check out Amazon’s booth, but it wasn’t a very large booth, and it was packed every time I walked by.
It certainly looks right now, that Alexa and Siri are dominating voice control, but Amazon is way out in front in terms of the number of devices controlled. Apple, of course, never seems to worry about being first, rather they are more about getting it right. Apple, this time, though, really has it’s work cut out to not let Amazon pull too far out in front. That I and some other Apple fans use both, should worry the Apple folks at least a little. Of course the Kindle came out long before the iPad, so, “ya never know!”
Two different approaches, an uncertain outcome, but both Alexa and Siri are likely to be the dominating players when it comes to controlling our homes, no matter what it is we want to control.