February 2018

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Creating the Voice of IoT

This column speaks about creating a voice for that face with a new breed of Voice Services aimed at evolving devices.

Ken Sinclair
Founder, Owner, Publisher

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My last column spoke of carving the Face of Digital Transformation.  This column speaks about creating a voice for that face with a new breed of Voice Services aimed at evolving devices.

Tin Can

The speed at which the voice of IoT is being created is amazing; the smart speaker forecast predicts 66.3 million US households will have a device by 2022. The report also estimates that 26.7 million households will own smart home devices other than smart speakers. Amazon and Google Share 92% of the Global Market.

Here are the top reasons people turn to their voice-activated speakers.

  1. It allows them to multitask more easily.
  2. It enables them to do things faster than other devices.
  3. It empowers them to get answers and information instantly.
  4. It makes their daily routine easier.

Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri or Google Home, have become an increasingly common sight in homes across the world through smart speakers. Like cyber personal assistants, they are connecting with residential systems, such as lighting and thermostats, to automate and simplify the way we run our homes.

This is an Interesting article that suggests how fast this will move out of the home hobby arena into our workspace,

Alexa, Would You Like To Go To Work With Me Today?”  Alexa’s introduction to the office appears to be the first step in replacing human office assistants with AI-powered virtual alternatives. - James McHale, Managing Director, Memoori

I am glad we are all playing with these virtual assistants. Is hard to understand without raising our voice and actually talking/interacting with these devices.  Now we talk directly to the things of IoT which greatly simplifies our interaction with them. Voice becomes the lowest cost set up tool when coupled with the ubiquitous cell phone it is much cheaper than touch screens and even old-school buttons and switches. I am very impressed with how easily it allows very different things to be grouped into one simple voice command. Stuff our industry and others have struggled with. The amazing connections between entertainment, education, and more give it an immediate value that is so easy to build on.

Google has a real war on its hands in this arena but as the cost keeps dropping the virtual voice/assistant devices are evolving as part of all open products,"the things in IoT," but voice interface is becoming a giveaway item and is destine to be everywhere.

What might even be scarier than a giveaway item is that they will pay you to have their voice in your product.

Improving search and advertising are the next frontiers for voice-activated devices  Indeed, as voice search expands — to the tune of 50 percent of all searches by 2020 (according to some estimates) — so, too, do opportunities for platforms to cash in beyond products and services. In fact, in an earnings call last year, Google acknowledged voice search would drive industry-wide change, but it did not detail its plans.

In our building automation world, these voices are moving out of their comfortable home of smart speakers into those other things in the IoT world. Example of thermostat product below,

Comes with built-in Alexa Voice Service, so you can ask your ecobee to set a timer, read you the news, adjust the temperature, and more. With Far-field voice technology, your ecobee4 can hear you from across the room.  Room sensors help manage hot or cold spots in your home, delivering comfort to the rooms that matter most.  Easily adjust temperature and comfort settings from anywhere using your Android and iOS devices. Also works with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings & more.

Alexa will soon help you make popcorn with voice-controlled microwaves via @DigitalTrends

So these new things now come with all the features we have come expected from speaking to speakers.

This is all possible by these large software identities cobbling together existing standards while creating their own with their own platforms.

Integrate Alexa Into Your Product  Use the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to add intelligent voice control to any connected product that has a microphone and speaker. Your customers will be able to ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, get news and local information, control smart home products, and more on their voice-enabled products

Do you have one or more of these Virtual Assistants? We have had Google Home for a long time but bought an echo dot as a Christmas gift.  I am amazed at the simplicity of set up, while this device was visiting our house it was able to take control of existing WIFI color controlled lights, Xmas tree, and heat, etc. in moments after taking the dot out of the box, enabling one assistant to turn stuff on and other stuff off. The differently named assistants played well together reacting only when spoken to. The $50 dot was amazing value and is rapidly becoming a giveaway item as part of other products. We had both devices talking to three different manufacturers of WIFI devices all reacting to one simple voice command.

In the middle of all this voice/phone device setup, the WIFI color light bulb asked me if I wished to update its software? I answered yes, it took a moment then winked at me, changed color and switched itself on and off. I was impressed but, I guess if it had found its voice it should have told me, "Ok I am done now, please proceed"

So you have found me out when I am not writing these columns I am entertained by talking to light bulbs....big smile.

OK, I lost the thread and will get back to the reality of Edge standards.  This is our best read article so far for January.

What's Happening at the Edge of IT/OT Convergence  Includes an interview with Jason Shepard, Dell Technologies Director of IoT Strategy - Therese Sullivan, Principal, BuildingContext Ltd

Although the voice is not directly part of this, it does fall into “analytics of the analytics,” and suggests a path to open source to escape the complete control of major software companies.

“Adoption of a standardized framework like EdgeX empowers IoT app developers to dynamically optimize where and when compute and storage should occur in the edge to cloud continuum for optimal results and lowest overall cost. I call this performing “analytics of the analytics.”  As part of this, developers will increasingly realize the importance of microservices and decouple “things” from applications.

But the message is the size and cost of both device and platform are shrinking.  This article speaks to the concept of Open hardware standards evolving for complex devices.

Open Software – and now Open Hardware   While at AHR Expo 2018, we encourage attendees to stop by our booth (4118) to see how open hardware is going to influence our industry. -  George Thomas, Contemporary Controls

I was curious that within a show displaying highly engineered industrial equipment if hobbyist computing platforms such as Raspberry Pi and BeagleBoard would appear and they did.

One company was completely committed to Raspberry Pi designs as I/O controllers and protocol converters.  Another company with a well-known name in the industry was showing a Raspberry Pi design that was not made by them—but made by the Raspberry Pi people themselves to the requirements of this OEM.  It is not a stretch to call these hobbyist platforms or micro PCs open hardware that could eventually influence the design of future industrial and building controls.

In this interview, Tory Davis:  That’s where the beauty of wireless comes in, and wireless is what’s allowing the industries to coalesce into one platform.

The word coalesce - come together and form one mass or whole is another great word for digital transformation, but we must preserve our tenets in the process.

So join in "The Talk To Me" evolution/revolution which gives a voice to the face of digital transformation. My next column will explore giving the face and the voice of digital transformation, a brain.

The old crow then told the Scarecrow of the importance of brains. The "mindless" Scarecrow joins Dorothy in the hope that The Wizard will give him a brain. Big smile, we need the transformation to machine learning way beyond just a diploma. :)


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