Smart Homes at IoT World (Part 1 of 2)
Internet of Things World 2016 was the 3rd annual event hosted at the Convention Center in Santa Clara CA. With over 10.000 attendees and over 200 exhibitors you were able to attend a total of 15 dedicated tracks around IoT ranging from manufacturing to smart cities, connected cars, the smart home, healthcare, energy & agriculture, supply chain & logistics plus much more. This is the first of a two part report focusing on “The Smart Home” track from this event.
This report will cover new upcoming technologies, expert opinions shared at panels from various industry experts and interesting startups to look out for in the coming near future.
A new study on year 2015 analyzed the usage of smart devices and the results are pretty interesting. The most “used” smart devices of year 2015 was the “smart garage door”. The smart garage door opener concepts implemented are ranging from adding Z-wave relays and tilt sensors to their existing home automation hub, to adding “connected” garage door openers which connect to existing home automation hubs, to independent systems with simple apps on customers’ phones, to the latest trend which is Alexa (Amazon Echo) connected garage door openers.
The second most used device in year 2015 was the smart door lock. The trend for those devices is going towards ease of installation. People are shying away from having to take apart the whole door lock mechanism and replace all the guts of a door lock, to install a brand new smart door lock. The customers are leaning towards removing two screws and adding on a new smart door lock leaving the existing locking mechanism in place.
Interestingly enough, the Bluetooth managed door locks did not get the expected market adoption and instead WiFi or Z-wave door locks dominated the market. It was great to hear that “Alexa connected” was not a trend as Amazon’s Echo does voice recognition and not voice authentication which are two completely different things.
Two discussions evolved in regards to voice control of smart homes. The first one was the difference between voice recognition which is a device understanding what you are saying and executing the command versus voice authentication, where the device doesn’t care what you say but instead the devices recognizes that you are really you and not somebody else.
The second discussion about voice control was around cloud based vs offline voice recognition. On this subject the opinions were shared across the audience, that nobody wants to loose voice control over their smart home just because their internet provider has gone offline. The voice control service should always be available with the house being online or offline.
Amazon Echo aka Alexa only functions in online mode of the house. Samsung showcasing their new Artik technology at this event, had their Artik 10 device powered by Sensory as a demo. This device works in offline mode of the house and executes voice commands just like Alexa. The Artik 10 just started selling on DigiKey and is already sold out and now on back-order. Details on Artik can be found under http://www.artik.io
At $150 for the Artik 10 the price is more than double the price of a Raspberry PI 3 Ultra Kit. Supported OS versions are Fedora, Snappy Ubuntu Core and Samsungs Tizen. More importantly Artik 10 supports Z-wave, ZigBee and Brillo with Bluetooth Mesh and Weaves coming this year. Adding those protocols to Raspberry PI 3 will certainly increase the price significantly. The expectation of people is that comparisons will be made but one major advantage of Raspberry PI over Artik 10 is their developers network. Artik will launch their Apps platform for developers within 3 months from today and people are already lining up to join that initiative. Artik will charge a developer fee just like Apple does to join their Apps platform.
As a live demonstration the Samsung Artik team showed a robot being voice controlled by their sensory voice control chip running on the Artik IoT framework. They also showcased a security system which included a home automation controller hub, motion sensor, etc all being controlled by Artik.
The same issue applied here in terms of voice recognition versus voice authentication. With that said the industry is aware of that problem and a variety of companies are already talking about on how to address that issue. One company joined a panel discussion on smart homes and addressed this exact problem with their software by focusing on voice authentication.
Talking to that company called Knurld was very interesting as many voice authentication solutions require a certain length of words or phrases being spoken before a person can be positively identified. The most common length for this procedure is about 10 to 15 seconds. However, in the smart home world the average length of any command set is about 3 to 4 seconds max which is what Knurld is targeting. Another aspect is voice training of the software to enable any voice authentication which can be quite lengthy where Knurld requires 30 seconds of training. Details on Knurld can be found under http://www.knurld.io
Companies like Google, Amazon and other voice recognition focused companies will tackle this sooner than later as customers’ demands drive innovation. A discussion with an Amazon Echo developer went into the right direction and hopefully find its way to their product enhancement list.
The discussion was around voice authentication and authorization. The concept of Role Based Access Control (RBAC) is very well known in the IT (not IoT) world but not so much in the voice control world… yet. The use case around this became obvious where the home owner defines certain roles and maps household members to those roles.
As an example the husband and wife have superuser rights while the kids are only allowed to use certain devices mapped to their roles. Guests at home are only allowed e.g. to control lights and nothing else. This is where the future should be going combining voice recognition with voice authentication and then voice authorization.
More to come in part 2 of this IoT World report. Stay tuned.