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Silicon Valley disrupts your light switch on its return to the smart home
OCTOBER 27, 2017 | Financial Times | Tim Bradshaw in Los Angeles.

Noon’s $400 “smart lighting system” is one of those hoping to tap into Amazon’s Alexa platform. Its “Room Director” incorporates an OLED display — the same kind of touchscreen technology used in the new iPhone X — and bulb-detecting algorithms to create “layered lighting”, with an array of scenes and moods. 

Noon’s $50m funding is large for a company that, until Thursday’s debut in US stores, had not begun to sell any products. Its backers argue the sum reflects the capital costs of building a high-quality consumer product, as well as the scale of the opportunity: 144m residential light switches are sold every year, Mr Charlton notes. 

“It is one of these unloved, overlooked products that has relatively boring incumbents that haven’t paid attention to the needs of the market,” says Rob Coneybeer, partner at Shasta Ventures, one of Noon’s earlier investors. “You probably hit a light switch at least 10 times a day. The only other product that has that level of engagement in your life is your smartphone.” 

There are few simpler technologies in the home than the humble light switch, which for most people works reliably without the addition of WiFi or Bluetooth. 
smart_homes  Amazon_Echo  Nest  Silicon_Valley  disruption  Google_Home  in-home  unglamorous  smart_lighting  obscure_markets  overlooked  high-quality 
november 2017 by jerryking
Amazon Echo Review: Second Generation, Still in First Place
Oct. 25, 2017 | WSJ | By Joanna Stern

Head of the Class

The real reason to buy an Echo has nothing to do with good looks or mics. It’s all about invisible Alexa. Generally speaking, all of Alexa’s smarts work on all the devices. And in the AI-assistant race against Google and Apple, Amazon has kept its early lead in some key areas:

* A deep ecosystem. With over 25,000 voice apps, or “skills,” and multiple hardware partners integrating Alexa, Amazon’s AI platform has become the most advanced voice operating system. Google has made some headway with third-party apps, but Alexa still has the edge with more news, ride-hailing, to-do list and kitchen-friendly apps. Google’s Assistant, however, does excel at answering random questions better. Come on, Alexa, you should know wool doesn’t go in the dryer.
* A smarter smart home. Amazon still has Google beat in smart-home control. Case in point: Alexa devices work with more connected thermostat brands than Google Home does. If you are especially interested in smart home, check out the $150 Echo Plus. It has all of the new Echo’s refinements, plus built-in wireless technology for home control without the need for third-party hubs.
* A stream of new features. Earlier this month, Echos got the ability to recognize multiple voices; your voice becomes a password. When I want to reorder breath mints, Alexa knows me and doesn’t ask for a PIN. Back in May, Amazon turned Alexa into a telephone operator: You can call others with the Alexa app or with an Echo. In June, Alexa got the ability to name different kitchen timers (one for the Brussels sprouts, one for the chicken). Reminder: Google Home has a number of these features as well. And Siri still can’t set multiple timers.

Despite Amazon’s lead, the Alexa apps for iOS and Android are in dire need of a redesign. Finding controls you want is harder than finding your bag at baggage claim. The Settings menu itself feels like an entirely different app. I made a video to show how voice recognition works, partly because it confused me so much at first.
Amazon_Echo  Alexa  Apple_HomePod  Google_Home  virtual_assistants  personal_assistants  voice_assistants  smart_homes  Siri  connected_devices  artificial_intelligence  voice_interfaces 
october 2017 by jerryking

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