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October 16, 2016
Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Dean Anthony Gratton shares his experiences with the Amazon Echo device, powered by Alexa.
I covered a story back in July, “The Smart home: Is this is as good as it gets?” and pondered the state of play with regards to smart home technology and whatnot – in short, I wasn’t impressed with the current technology and its lacklustre offering.
Good morning Alexa
But then, last month, I purchased Amazon Echo, since Amazon were offering Prime members early access to the product at a discounted rate – so, I thought I’d give it a go. “Wow!” Yep, that was my first impression – I was pretty much left speechless and utterly amazed at how natural it felt talking with Alexa and how she could easily understand numerous nuances in the human language.
Just simply acknowledging Alexa first thing in the morning, as you make coffee with, “Alexa, good morning” prompts her to read out facts that have occurred ‘on this day’. I then ask “Alexa, give me my flash briefing” to which she proceeds to narrate all the latest news across various mediums that I have preconfigured using the Alexa Apple or Android app. Sarah (the wife) and I now regularly sit in the kitchen and start the day with Alexa over a cup of coffee – it really does feel so natural.
A reality shift in the smart home
Other features include compiling a shopping or a ‘to do’ list and playing music. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber (like me), you have access to a wealth of music and, as such, you can create a playlist for every occasion. For example, I often cook and will ask Alexa to, “Shuffle my ‘cooking’ playlist” – the sound through Alexa is rich and the base is superb and comparable to my costlier iTeufel Air Blue in terms of sound quality.
And, of course, you can ask Alexa to define or describe the meaning of a word. One definition I asked her, was to explain the Internet of Things (IoT), which she described with surprising accuracy! But it doesn’t stop there! Whilst these features are fantastic, Amazon has partnered with other manufacturers to deliver that smart home experience I was eager to witness in my July column and I have this niggling feeling that the smart home is about to take a whole new reality shift.
Nearing a true Star Trek experience
Amazon has partnered with Siemens SmartThings, Philips Hue, Wink and Honeywell, to name a few, to set about delivering the smart or connected home experience. With these kits, there’s a smart lighting ecosystem, along with electrical outlets and switches. In other words, you can ask Alexa to turn on or off your lighting, outlets and so on, as well as creating mood lighting with, “Alexa, set bedroom lights to 35 percent”.
Similarly, you can set the temperature of your home, “Alexa, decrease the thermostat in the bedroom by three degrees” which, of course, you can also control from your smartphone or tablet device. Amazon also offer several starter kits that are compatible with Alexa and provide various hubs, lightbulbs, outlets and sensors that can all be controlled using your voice. I did read a recent article that intimated we are getting closer to the Star Trek experience of controlling everything through our voice and perhaps, thanks to Alexa, that’s finally beginning to happen!
Until next time…
With the recent announcement from Google delivering its biggest set of gadgets with Artificial Intelligence (AI) at its centre, Google Home competes with Echo. And, of course, rumours are afoot with Apple jeering up its own rendition of Alexa – one to watch I guess.
In the meantime, this is where a ‘beam me up Alexa’ Dr G signs off.
Dr Dean Anthony Gratton is a bestselling author and columnist, and has worked extensively within the wireless communications R&D industry. His wireless research work has been patented. You can contact Dean via his website, and follow him on Twitter (@grattonboy) to enjoy his risqué humour, witty shenanigans, social media and technology-related tweets. You can also read more about his work at deangratton.com.
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