CES 2020 in Smart Home Voice Tech
Smart home technology filled every corner of CES last week as companies competed to show off how their designs would improve people’s homelife in ways large and small beyond the growing variety of smart speakers and smart displays available to buy. Voice tech played no small part in the devices produced by startups and tech giants alike in the expo halls. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant often played a starring role, not surprising after the company announced that more than 100,000 smart home devices now support Alexa, but there were plenty more products featuring support from Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and other platforms as well. Check out our picks for smart home devices that stood out in Las Vegas last week.
Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet
Voice controls for bathrooms and general hygiene purposes have been a perennial topic discussion at CES for the last few years. This year saw an uptick in relevance thanks to more high-profile exhibits applying voice technology to bathroom gadgets and none more so than the Kohler Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet. The Numi comes with the Alexa voice assistant built into its design, controlling the lighting and music playing in the bathroom, along with the toilet’s heated seat and other features to the personal profile of the user. The Numi wasn’t the only new piece of voice tech for the bathroom on display of course. Kohler and Moen both showcased shower-specific smart speakers for keeping connected to the larger smart home while getting clean while Venus’ new Smart Makeup Mirror comes with Alexa built-in.
Toshiba Smart Microwave Oven
Pairable with Alexa or Google Assistant, the Toshiba smart microwave is aimed at people who want to make their kitchen more controllable by voice. All of the standard microwave functions can be run by voice command, either through a smart speaker or the voice button on the microwave. As convenience and speed is the whole point of a microwave, it’s easy to see how voice commands just enhance that factor. For instance, one could put a bag of popcorn in the microwave in the morning, then tell a voice assistant linked to a mobile device to start it popping right before returning home so that it will be ready when coming through the door. Toshiba won’t be without new competition as other companies came out with smart microwaves this year, including Sharp Electronics, which has Alexa built into its new design.
Communications technology isn’t usually built into beds, but Dux has created a bed with a smart speaker built by stellé that will have the Alexa voice assistant built into it. The idea being to apply bedtime audio and smart home controls to the bed itself, without needing a separate speaker. Like the Numi toilet, the bed makes a voice assistant more integral to the home than a standard smart speaker, literally making Alexa part of the furniture. The bed also comes with an app for controlling other smart products in the room like the lights and curtains. Healthier environments for sleeping and in general also came up in other new voice-controlled devices, like the OneLife Alexa-powered PureOne air purifier.
C by GE
Smart lights are a staple of the smart home environment, but GE brought a new, simpler way to run them with its new switches, which only require three wires and no hub or neutral wire to operate. That means no need for specifically buying smart light bulbs or complicated installation of switches. They can be connected to most standard voice assistant platforms or run by the GE app. Other manufacturers upped the number of voice-activated lights they sell as well, including Lutron and Phillips, but novelty is less of an attention-grabber now for smart lights and better efficiency and easier installation are going to be more of a draw.
Chamberlain Garage Door Opener
The new Chamberlain Garage Door Opener is similar to its previous iterations, including control by Google Assistant. But now, Alexa can run the device as well. The more ecumenical garage door opener points to a trend toward multiple voice assistants. The new version not only connects with Alexa, but it can also link with an Amazon Prime myQ Key account so that packages delivered by Amazon can be placed inside the garage. The number of smart products with multiple voice assistant options is likely to expand quickly this year thanks to the Project Connected Home over IP that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Zigbee Alliances agreed to in December. With third-party device makers not forced to build different models for each voice assistant, prices may go down, while the number of homes with voice-powered devices goes up.