Far away from Silicon Valley, California, you and I only shake our heads occasionally in amusement or amazement when we hear of corporate battles between the tech giants – Google, Apple and Amazon – and multiples of billions of dollars invested, earned or lost.
But if we’re contemplating spending our hard-earned money on a new build or a home renovation project, although we’re not talking expense on that scale, what the ‘Big 3’ are up to assumes personal importance. So, what do you need to know?
Experiences or solutions?
To get the most ‘bang for your buck’, consider what outcome is the most important. Are you looking for a one-touch experience? So that when you say ‘Cooking’, one command on a touch-pad or phone will take care of lighting in the kitchen and dining room, turn on the air-con in those zones, and start your favourite Spotify playlist? Or perhaps ‘Good night’ will dim all the lights, set temperatures perfectly for sleeping, turn on the perimeter security – while playing you a lullaby?
If you’re more solutions-oriented, you’ll be looking for integration and expandability. There are many products available for use in the home today, but you don’t want to get app-happy trying to manage them individually. While you may start off with a small set of smart home systems and tools, the future is undoubtedly filled with innovations – and it would be frustrating not to be able to install an amazing utility down the road from your current fit-out.
Who will be your digital butler?
So, to go with Apple, Amazon or Google for your smart speaker, which is the ‘digital butler’ you’ll use for voice commands? Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant are all appealing choices. Who wouldn’t want to just say the command, and have it obeyed, rather than attend to a phone or other device to activate your smart appliances and fittings?
The catch is that there is no compatibility on the horizon for the ‘big 3’, so a choice will need to be made. Amazon is going for market share, with their Echo Home Assistant range definitely on the cutting edge, but still offering good integration with third-party apps. An Amazon smart speaker is included in our Basic Smart Home package, and this technology integrates with the Control4 range of products.
Google’s Home range offers an easy plug and play utility, and along with Google Assistant is streaks ahead in terms of information parsing – you can phrase a question in multiple ways and Google will mostly give you a coherent answer using a huge crowd-sourcing database, demographics and personal data. Yep, back to the future right there.
Then there’s Apple, who play the loyalty and exclusivity card with their superb styling. However, their HomeKit coupled with Siri has poor integration with third-party apps - but maintains the Apple ease of use and appeal factors.
How secure is your personal data?
Along with your butler preferences, data integrity and security is a growing issue. Apple has already been in the firing line and has stood up well to pressure from outside agencies wanting access to personal data. However, the dam wall is far from secure on that front, as other tech companies are going through various legal trials of their own right now, and legal precedence for the future is yet to be established in international courts.
Amazon and Google use their data collection algorithms to learn more, and appear ‘smarter’, while also logging the data from your requests and linking them to your accounts. Apple uses a different approach which makes Siri appear 'dumber’ than the other two, but Siri and HomePod data is encrypted and randomised, and not linked to your Apple account.
For smart home technology, the best security is end-to-end encryption which gives total control to the owner concerning where personal data goes. Third party apps, particularly around security products, typically use a subscription base which can tie you down and lead to possible data insecurity.
It’s a growing technology jungle out there – but don’t despair. Premier AV Installs is ready to help with any aspect, or even just to talk through the possibilities for your situation.