Voice AI for the smart home
Sep 11, 2020
7 MIN READ

Why Your Smart Home Devices Should Have Independent Voice Assistants

The smart home, with its network of connected gadgets—including lights, door locks, televisions, thermostats, cameras, smart speakers, and appliances—all controlled by a central processing hub, has created an ecosystem of interdependence between manufacturers and smart speakers. This relationship has worked well for the smart speaker brands but has dispossessed gadget manufacturers of an opportunity to create greater brand affinity through an independent voice assistant. 

The rapid shift to a voice-first strategy among brands in every industry has been accelerated by the universal adoption of voice user interfaces (VUIs) and by consumers’ demand for the convenience of hands-free interactions in all aspects of their lives—including in cars, public spaces, and inside homes. There are currently over 3.25 billion voice assistants being used in devices around the world, and 110 million virtual assistants in the United States alone, according to a recent study by Statista. This has created an urgency for brands who haven’t yet voice-enabled their products to get started and play catch-up.

Some manufacturers intent upon retaining control over their customer relationships, data and brand identity, are choosing not to cede control to third-party smart speaker and voice assistant brands. Advances in voice AI technology in recent years have created new opportunities for home appliance and gadget makers to add custom voice assistants to devices that exceed the simple command and control limitations of the past, while allowing complete control over the user experience and valuable data.

The rapid shift to a voice-first strategy among brands in every industry has been accelerated by the universal adoption of voice user interfaces (VUIs) and by consumers’ demand for the convenience of hands-free interactions in all aspects of their lives.

By implementing an independent voice assistant, in-home devices can deliver all the convenience of cloud connectivity, the reliability of embedded voice technology, and the convenience of connectivity to the hub device—without relinquishing control to a third party voice assistant.

If you haven’t considered the option of embedding an independent voice assistant into your smart home device or appliance, here are 4 compelling reasons to do so:

  1. Build better customer relationships
  2. Increase product value and convenience
  3. Own your product roadmap
  4. Improve voice-controlled responses and reliability

Build customer connections with an independent voice interface

There are compelling marketing reasons to have a presence on third party voice AI channels. However, giving complete control of your customer relationships to Google and Alexa doesn’t make good brand sense. Instead, connect directly with your customers via a conversational interface that allows users to stand near your product and ask for the things they want.

The convenience of a voice interface is lost when your customer can only use it while in the same room as a smart speaker and is limited to a finite number of requests. Rather than requiring your customers to interact with a speaker that may, or may not, be in the same room as your device, allow your customers to ask for what they want directly from your product and deliver richer functionality and greater convenience.

The convenience of a voice interface is lost when your customer can only use it while in the same room as your smart speaker, and can only make a limited number of requests.

For instance, if your product is a garage door opener, your customers most likely don’t have a speaker in the garage. Giving them the ability to ask the garage door to open and then close in 30 seconds, allows them to leave the garage with their hands full and eliminates the temptation to run under the door to beat the sensors—an act that often does not have positive outcomes.

Your customer’s oven, refrigerator, or washing machine are not likely located in the living room, or even in the same room. Give your customers a direct link to your product and your brand by giving the power of voice to the product itself while retaining the convenience of connection to the home hub device.

If you’ve built a relationship of trust with your customers, is that bond broken when a voice user interface is dependent on a third party device? It can be, if your customer has concerns over how Alexa or Google are handling and distributing user data. 

Retaining ownership of the voice assistant allows manufacturers to deepen customer relationships by establishing proprietary data and privacy policies and communicating them with users. When the voice assistant is on your product instead of on a remote device, data can be stored on the device itself and never transferred to the cloud, if you choose. Brands can decide to use only aggregated data to improve products and the voice interface itself, building more trust between users and individual products.

You’ve built your brand on the reliability, functionality, and trustworthiness of your products. Extend your brand promise with a voice interface that’s smart without relying on Alexa or Google smart home solutions.

Convenient and hands-free operations with voice

Statista forecasts that by 2023 the number of digital voice assistants will reach around 8 billion units—a number higher than the world’s population. These statistics, and others, all point to the same eventuality: In the future, people will be interacting with multiple voice assistants on multiple devices—each with its own personality and purpose. 

As voice technology continues to evolve and the world becomes increasingly voice-enabled, consumers will still be looking to devices to solve distinct problems and perform specific functions. The more voice interfaces become the norm, the less acceptance there will be for a singular voice experience. 

Specialization and differentiation is how your brand has succeeded in the market thus far and consumers simply want those functions to be easier and more convenient. In other words, your refrigerator doesn’t have to know the weather or play the top 10 hit songs, your washing machine doesn’t need to provide answers to history questions, and your oven doesn’t need to report the latest news.

Instead, voice-enable your devices to perform their intended functions with easier, more convenient interfaces that allow product users to control them, even when their hands are full. Cloud connectivity directly from your device gives you the option to offer product ordering, such as more coffee beans, soap, or other items related to your product.

In the future, people will be interacting with multiple voice assistants on multiple devices—each with its own personality and purpose.

The implementation of an independent voice assistant enhances intended functions of individual devices and allows manufacturers to add new capabilities. What began with the smartphone is now a popular way to ask for things from cars, speakers, and smart home devices. The growth in adoption of voice assistants has created a race for companies to discover more ways to use smart technology to connect people directly to their products. 

Own your product roadmap

When a product is tethered to an third-party voice platform, simple updates or scheduled upgrades must be implemented on multiple platforms, creating delays and confusion. On the other hand, embedding an independent voice assistant within the product gives manufacturers control over product settings and configurations, update release cycles, and device-specific settings. 

An independent voice assistant gives manufacturers the freedom to determine which functions to voice enable and how user data will inform product iterations—and deliver those promises on time without generating confusion between platforms.

Embedding an independent voice assistant within the product gives manufacturers control over product settings and configurations, update release cycles, and device-specific settings. 

It’s your product, shouldn’t you decide what services to provide, what data to collect, and how to build your customer relationships? Your product should have its own voice and visual interfaces and extend your brand with voice-enabled devices and appliances that aren’t dependent on other device ownership.

Faster response times and greater reliability

When users ask for a specific function from your in-home product, they shouldn’t have to wait for a cloud connection to get a result. When they want to order more coffee beans while brewing their first cup in the morning, they shouldn’t have to walk into another room to do it. Embedded technology with cloud connectivity solves for all these inconveniences.

Embedded technology takes the wait time out of a voice interface by maintaining the connection between query and result at the local level, and the cloud connectivity function allows users to perform off-device functions at the product level.

Combining the reliability of embedded with the convenience of the cloud ensures your independent voice assistant will still respond and operate your device or appliance even when the internet signal is weak or unavailable. An embedded plus cloud solution eliminates the dependence on a good internet connection for your voice-enabled device and makes certain that it works regardless of the state of the cloud at that moment and in that location. Deliver always-on reliability and live up to your promise of accessibility and reliability to your customers with voice-enabled in-home devices.

One of the greatest challenges for brands looking to add voice assistants into their products is the temptation to do it all. In actuality, the strength of a voice-enabled device is its ability to perform the desired tasks, while only accessing the cloud for related queries.

For instance, If you’re an oven manufacturer and you want your users to be able to tell your appliance to sear a steak, you don’t want your device to return with the response, “Here are steakhouses in your area.” A dedicated voice assistant can be tested and designed with your unique users and environment in mind, eliminating the confusion often associated with accessing a product through a separate device.

Get started on your journey to voice-enable your smart home products by first understanding your customers and knowing what functionality they expect from your device. Then, give them an exceptional voice experience with a conversational interface that delivers on all the reliability of an embedded solution, and maybe even add the convenience and conversational ability of a cloud connection.

Our guide, “Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Voice AI Adoption” offers advice and perspective from voice AI experts.

Our suite of voice technologies including the Houndify Voice AI platform, custom wake words, and embedded solutions help manufacturers create smart devices with responsive, reliable, and conversational voice user interfaces. Explore Houndify’s voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help you bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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