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VOICE CONTROL - THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY?


Phil Turner, director at CEDIA member Philharmonic AV offers his perspective on the rise of voice control and takes a closer look at the potential it brings to home technology professionals.    

Amazon is believed to have sold 5 million units of their Echo devices at the end of 2016. Investment house, Mizuho, believe that it will provide Amazon with annual revenue of $11 billion by 2020. With Google now active in the residential voice control market, it is hard to ignore this technology and its growing impact on our homes.

So, as an AV integrator, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

On the face of it, yet another low margin consumer product is the last type of technology that we need in our market. 

We have often had margin issues selling TVs and some audio streaming hardware providers, like Sonos. Many integrators responded by always quoting higher margin alternatives, like Loewe TVs or Linn music streamers, while the majority simply made the best of their lot and offset the lower margin items with higher margin components, wherever possible.

So how does voice control sit in this scenario? 

Well, one thing is for sure, it is happening with or without us. 

If Ford and VW are integrating voice control into their cars then integrators need to understand that voice is at the centre of the new paradigm of ambient control. It is taking over from mobile which in turn took over from computers. 

In this context, the big question for our industry is what are the opportunities it can provide for us?

One possible way to view voice control is as an amazing opportunity to sell more control systems again.

A few years ago, if a client wanted to have home AV control then they needed a control system. In recent years, with near total adoption of mobile technology, clients are a lot more comfortable switching between apps on their phone to control music on one app, door entry or CCTV on another, and then heating on yet another, etc, etc. 

In my view, voice control has the potential to shift the balance back into our favour again.

With all of the big control system players embracing voice in their upcoming offerings, they will again lead the charge in integration. Undoubtedly, at some point in the future, the technology will catch up and allow for voice control across multiple apps to be delivered seamlessly. But, in the meantime, maybe this is an opportunity for us to really impress and deliver a fantastic, integrated control solution to our clients. 

And, let’s not forget that the most commonly requested feature of our systems is easy-to-use.  What can be easier than “Alexa, watch sky” or “Josh, lights to entertain”? 

Voice allows us to use a control system without people being scared by the technology in the background. It really is about the solution and not about how it gets achieved from the client’s point of view.

So, until voice is replaced with mind control and we eliminate vocal commands entirely then I think we need to embrace it. Fundamentally, we need to think about how we can position the required infrastructure to make it work well across the home and we also need to ensure that we link voice technology to the control system infrastructure we are all so familiar with.

As featured in the February edition of Essential Install.