Connectivity is still a big challenge for buyers who purchase smart home systems, and connected devices for their car and even their office. Do the systems work with their current devices? How do the speak to each other? And where do they start?

Manufacturers must do a better job explaining to consumers how products work, which wireless protocol their run on, and then how to link their products to other connected devices that consumer either currently owns or plans to buy. (To learn about the five wireless protocols, check out GearBrain's How Your Smart Home Speaks Wireless.)

Speak your mind

One way some manufacturers simplify how new devices connect is with voice command. Speaking to a device, and having it understand you, makes the entire experience easier—plus encourages buyers to keep using these products at home. Voice detection technology has advanced so much that consumers can speak in natural sentences, and be easily understood, says Ellen Juhlin, head of product at Orion Labs, a voice communication company based in San Francisco, CA.

"With the latest generation of voice AIs like Alexa and Siri, the burden is shifted more to the software systems to interpret what you want to do, and then take the appropriate action," she says. "So in that sense, voice is the new kind of app for interacting with any technology around you."

However, these new voice activated devices come with a big security challenge: How do you keep them from being hacked? Right now, it's hard enough to secure current connected devices, especially those connected to an open system like WiFi or Bluetooth. Closed systems including Z-Wave and Zigbee do fare better. Voice recognition technology could actually help lock-down devices with voice control. But keep in mind voice technology can also create its own issues as your voice can change its timbre and tone based on where you are, what you're doing and even how you feel.

Say my name

Many of the current voice activation devices work on commands or once they hear their name. When you consider that these new devices are always listening, this can cause a big problem, especially if you are not in the room and the TV is left on. Did you see what Stephen Corbert did on his TV Show? He said into the TV "Alexa, Order me pizza." Check out the video below to see the entire skit. It's great.

Colbert also highlights the need that voice recognition must be built into voice activation devices for security. It will start to alleviate a lot of problems like what Stephen demonstrated—as well as ease concerns for consumers. After all, who wants a robber to be able to tell Alexa to turn off a security system?

Which manufacturers are leading the charge for voice activation? You will not be surprised on a few of the leaders in this space. You have Amazon with Alexa, Apple with Siri, Microsoft with Cortana and Google with Google Home (Android). But there are a few starts up vying for the top spot including Orion Labs, CastleOS and Ubi. Other manufacturers are also inserting voice activation into their products by using either existing voice apps or creating their own. Here is a list of current voice activation products available on the market today:

As you can see we have very big, and powerful, companies fighting to be the standard voice hub to control your smart home, connected car and any other connected device part of your personal Internet of Things. But that's because they see that voice activation will drive adoption of smart devices. And demand? That's only going to increase, says Orion Lab's Juhlin.


"The available technology and network bandwidth can now easily support this greater richness of communication and connection, and the demand for this kind of connection is only going to increase," she says. "As far as interacting directly with technology, Amazon's Alexa has become the new interface to a whole ecosystem of voice-enabled services. By opening up their platform, supporting the developers that want to use it, and providing a consistent UX framework to follow, they've made it easy for users to access and control things that previously required a mobile app or web page."
However, consumers still need to be educated about why they need a voice activation device and how it works with their smart home system or connected car. Manufacturers will also need to show how voice can transform the way consumers can control their new connected lifestyle— while also saving buyers money. Finally, companies need to demonstrate how these devices can make the consumer's time more efficient—plus provide the protection they need for themselves, their home and their family.

Some companies are starting to step up to address these concerns, with new ways consumers can use and adopt voice activation with their existing smart home devices. August Home, for example, just announced the launch of the first smart lock skill on Alexa enabled devices. Now home owners with August smart locks installed, can just ask Alexa to check if they remembered to lock their front door—and if they forgot, have Alexa do that for them.

"We understand voice is the natural progression to gain adoption for new smart home devices," says Kathy Sanders, CMO of August Home. "With our Amazon Alexa integration, we are providing consumers with a human interface that offers a whole new level of convenience with another hands-free way to control the front door."

In addition, Ford announced they will be integrating Amazon's Alexa in their Sync 3 system. Just imagine it's 20 degrees outside and all you have to do is tell Alexa to start the car and put the heat at 78 degrees? And more will come. All we hope is the manufacturers remember it's not voice activation—but voice activation and recognition.

If you need help in setting up any of these new home automation devices, you can visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a local trusted professional.

To learn more about Amazon Echo, check out GearBrain's Amazon Echo: Best AI Digital Assistant For Any Smart Home.