Understanding Voice Control for Home Automation

HowToAV.tv talks to Alex Capecelatro - Co-Founder and CEO of Josh.ai - one of the world's leading innovators of voice activation technology about integration of voice control with AV and home automation systems.

HowToAV talks to one of the world's leading voice activation and voice control innovators - Alex Capecelatro of Josh.ai - to discuss the latest innovations in voice control and how best to integrate it as part of a professional home automation or audio visual system.

Voice activation or voice control allows the user to activate or control a wide range of home automation and AV devices simply using their voice, as opposed to pressing buttons to using a touchscreen interface device.

Akuvox Smart Intercom with Voice controlWho are are the main players in the voice control market?

'There are essentially three main players in the voice control market; Amazon Alexa Voice Service (with devices such as the Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot), Google Home with a much newer product with a great microphone and my company - Josh.ai. In some cases we all work together and in other cases our systems compete.'

How do these Voice Control systems differ?

'Both Amazon Alexa and Google Home are essentially smart microphone devices, hardware platforms that are able to do language processing using a software layer. Josh is a full control system using a black box hidden in the closet which does all the language processing as well. So that's why we might work with Amazon and Google Home in that we might use their microphones and our control/processing system.'

How much of a home automation system can be controlled using voice activation?

'My place, for example, I can open my garage doors, control lights by floor or room, play music - choosing specific artists or genres, through Sonos or other integrations. I've got a fountain, different cameras throughout the house that I can control simply through voice commands.
So pretty much anything that can be integrated with a home automation system can be controlled through voice as well.'

voice activation / speech controlDoes a Voice Activation System need to learn our voice?

'It does not need to learn; the way the technology works is interesting. Basically the process needs to convert the spoken word into written text. Convetring to the spoken word to written text is done using a technology called ASR (Automatic Speech Regonition), a technology coming out of companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple and it's open-source, meaning that most people can use it.'

Is Voice Control technology secure?

'Some of these precautions are already there, so if you have a hands-free microphone like the Amazon Echo, they won't allow you to voice command alarm systems, garage doors and locks without a voice pincode.
Customers also like using their smartphone as their interface, so then it's really locked-down and secure.'

When designing Voice Control & Activation into a home automation system, what are the key areas to consider?

  • Audit the network. Make sure you have a good network. Right now all the speech-to-text portion of voice processing is in the cloud. In areas with slow network performance, a system won't perform well.
  • Audit the devices. If you can't control a device with a button, then it's not going to work with voice control.
  • Give natural names to rooms, zones and devices. Therefore, when using voice phrases such as 'turn on the lights in the kitchen' you're asking for a much more natural action.

Our thanks to Alex Capecelatro, Josh.ai, CEDIA and Integrated Systems Europe. Interview produced as part of CEDIA Training at ISE 2017.

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