As voice recognition gets better and better, the future of the smart home looks brighter than ever. When we think of the home of the future, instantly we think of controlling it all with our voices. That future is now a reality. And while voice control and recognition has been around for a while in various iterations, it’s gotten a bit of a bad rep. That’s because by and large, users find voice recognition technology in devices to be frustratingly slow and plagued with errors. The fact remains, however, that voice recognition is more convenient than typing or hitting buttons on a remote control, smart phone or computer.
Recently, Consumer Technology Association’s chief economist, Shawn DuBravac, stated that in 2017, the word error rate in voice recognition technology will have decreased from 23 percent in 2013 to zero. “The next computer interface is voice,” he added. DuBravac also pointed to the increasing focus on hub devices, like Amazon Echo, for vocal computing, with companies at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in January expected to show products offering more capability with devices like these.
Amazon is putting its Alexa voice assistant technology in tons of devices, such as its Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Tap in an effort to take over the smart home with inexpensive electronics. Apple, of course, is big on voice interaction with Siri, and has integrated Siri in to new Apple TVs so that you can search a movie without having to annoyingly type on a keyboard plastered on your TV screen. Apple also has a framework for smart devices called HomeKit, that can be controlled with Siri as well. You can ask Siri to turn an appliance on or off, or set one of your home scenes, for example.
While these types of devices and technology are very mainstream, home automation companies have been using voice control for some time. Now they are using some of these more mainstream technologies in their own products instead of using proprietary ones. One well-known home automation manufacturer just announced integration with Amazon Alexa, Amazon Tap and Amazon Fire TV, providing homeowners with the convenience of whole-home automation through simple and intuitive voice commands that can activate smart home scenes and control individual devices.
In fact, most home automation manufacturers have incorporated voice activation into their products in one way or another, allowing you to speak different, simple commands to control your entertainment such as “Apple TV” or “ESPN.” Say “brighter” and your lights will ramp up instantly.
All of this is great news for the homeowner, who can expect not only more accurate speech recognition technology next year, but voice control integrated into nearly every aspect of his or her smart home technology. This category will continue to improve until it’s so intuitive, it will no longer be a topic of conversation.
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You stream media all the time, but do you really know what that means? In essence, streaming is an alternative to downloading content to a hard drive and storing it there for playback, which can take up a lot of space on your device and take a long time to complete. Simply put, streaming is content—like TV shows and music—that isn’t stored on your device but that is constantly received and presented to you while being delivered by the provider. This means you don’t have to wait for a movie to download before you watch it nor do you have to store it on your set-top box, iPhone or other device. You can playback while subsequent data is being received.
So take this typical scenario. You’ve got your daughter streaming Netflix in the bedroom, your son playing online games in the garage and your wife listening to Pandora on Sonos while you stream Game of Thrones on your iPhone from the treadmill. The unwelcome buffering wheel can bring all this fun to a screeching halt. That’s because with all this great streaming content comes a heck of a lot of data flowing around the home—especially if you want to enjoy high-definition content. The more content streamed, the more the WiFi in your home will clog up.
What you may not know, however, is that there are solutions. Oh yes, you can heal thy streaming snafus with a more robust home network, preferably one installed (and even maintained) by a professional. For large homes, we can install multiple wireless access points to ensure continuous, even coverage across the house. In fact, for homes with a lot of streaming entertainment demands, we often install enterprise-grade routers and other products that go well beyond what your local Internet service provider will typically install. As an added bonus, a lot of home entertainment and networking gear can be maintained remotely. Instead of us coming out to your home on Super Bowl Sunday to fix something, more than likely, we can troubleshoot it over the internet, saving you time and money while adding convenience.
Wondering where to stream music and movies from? There are the old standbys for video like NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV and Hulu, but then you also have more niche services like Mubi—which has more obscure movies—along with cable network channels that are getting into the streaming game, including HBO Now, CBS All Access and Showtime. Free content abounds online as well with providers like YouTube, Crackle, Funny or Die and others.
For the music lover, you can stream Spotify and Pandora free, sign up for their commercial-free and more feature-rich paid services, or go the iTunes or Google Play route. We are also digging the new Tidal high-resolution streaming service, the first of its kind.
Whatever content you fancy, content abounds. You just want to make sure you can play it. Call or come in today and we’ll get you on the road to smooth streaming for what is going to be a content-rich 2016
The New Year: A time when we take a look at the previous year’s successes and foibles and plan for the next. 2016 is going to be an exciting year for home entertainment and control as new technologies become more mainstream, content becomes more exciting than ever, car and home become more in sync and technology continues, as it always does, to improve. Without further fanfare, here are our top five tech predictions for the 2016.
1) Homeowners will continue the smart home quest. Traditional home automation companies and new ‘DIY’ ones that have appeared on the scene are all endeavoring to capitalize on the smart home market, which is poised to be $71 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research. DIY Home Automation is typified by products like the Nest thermostat and Dropcam security cameras, with Apple joining the fray with its own home automation platform, HomeKit.
Just because some smart home automation products are marketed as DIY doesn’t, however, mean that average consumers have either the time or inclination to install a thermostat, surveillance system or connected door locks. Just because you buy a bathtub or water heater from the local hardware store, doesn’t mean you are going to install them on your own. Whether you want so-called DIY home automation or a more sophisticated home control system, we can help guide you through the selection and installation process.
2) The Car and home will become more in sync. Cars are more advanced than homes these days, with driverless sensor-based cars being tested now. We predict in 2016 that cars and homes will become more in tune, allowing not just your smart phone but your auto to communicate with your abode, with some manufacturers giving drivers a safe and responsible way to remotely access their entire frequently used smart home devices while on the road. Instead of just your garage door opening, in 2016, you can get your whole home primed for arrival from temperature to lights to music to door locks before you even arrive.
3) This will be the year of 4K Ultra HD. You’ve seen the sets (and if you haven’t, you need to come demo one). They look amazing, especially on a big screen and have been steadily coming down in price. DirecTV recently announced that its customers can expect 4K content starting early 2016, which is great news for those of us who are craving an Ultra HD experience. Netflix, Amazon and YouTube already have some 4K ready to stream and companies like Roku are building UHD-ready hardware. Get ready for a truly lifelike viewing experience in 2016 with more content choices.
4) Smart devices get smarter. As sensors and chips are added to more devices, it’s easier to interact with our devices more fluidly. With this increased smarts, these devices can deliver relevant information quicker than before, and make it simpler for us to program them to suit our needs. Look for more and smarter wearables, for example, with the world-wide sales of wearable computing devices growing briskly in the next few years to projected 175 million in 2020.
5) Content is king. As more and more people cut the cord, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are giving the networks a real run for their money. In fact, these streaming services provide some very original programming, like The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, Master of None and the Mindy Project that are hugely popular in streaming households. Thanks to competition between cable and streaming providers, we’ve got some really innovative and unique content coming down the pipelines (or should we say, WiFi). Look for more unique streaming shows you can binge watch in 2016.
With all this great content and technology, it’s time to do a little sprucing up your system. Call us or come in for something as simple as an A/V calibration or as dramatic as a complete A/V makeover. We’re here to help!