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"The Smart Home is Dead"

pvrfan

Active Member
Aha.  Maybe some are waking up to the thought that voice control, by itself, really doesn't give you that much:
 
"...half a decade after Alexa launched, there’s a lingering question: has Amazon’s assistant actually become more useful?"
 
"...Ultimately, Amazon has been extremely — even scarily — successful at spreading Alexa over the world of internet-enabled gadgets, but its functionality still feels thin. It’s a technology that is miles wide but inches deep, always there in a pinch but never quite as good as you’d like. And in many cases, it adds exactly zero intelligence to gizmos, just tacking on voice controls instead. Amazon doesn’t help with this."
 
https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/6/20951178/amazon-alexa-echo-launch-anniversary-age-funtionality-not-changed-use-cases
 
 
 
"The smart home is dead. I'm not sure exactly when the time of death should have been called, but it happened at some point between Google trying to rebrand the smart home as "the helpful home" and the publication of this article, which expresses dismay that at five years of age, Amazon's Alexa offers little more than a new way of interacting with things, without deep functionality or truly new use cases.  "
 
https://mailchi.mp/iotpodcast/stacey-on-iot-no-one-knows-how-to-sell-iot?e=51cba5435c
 
 
Thoughts?
 
Craig
 
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
I'm not clear what would meet the requirement of being "more useful" but I strongly suspect the things the author would like to see Alexa do are things I will never want or care about. Neither article suggests a path that Amazon or Google should be taking but just say they are failing to achieve... something (what is the definition of that something?)
 
And once again there is the threat that if Amazon does not up their game then Apple, who so far has had no significant impact in the larger Home Automation universe, will somehow move in and dominate the industry.How many years now have we been hearing that?
 

Deane Johnson

Active Member
This is certainly a useful topic for discussion.
 
I have 5 Alexas in use, mostly to operate my Z-Wave lighting.  My sense is that Amazon is being extremely cautious about introducing new things so as to not mess things up in the process.  Most changes that I've observed lately have been the simple responses from Alexa, such as "enjoy the sunshine" when it's actually shining, and "enjoy your weekend", etc.  Not especially useful, but an interesting "gee whiz".
 
I have noticed that Alexa seems to be slowing down more often than ever.  Of course, it could be caused by my system, but I'm inclined to think it's an overloaded server.  There used to be a half second delay in the response, now it's sometimes 2 to 4 seconds.  I have a 1 Gig internet connection, so it shouldn't be that.
 
The one thing I wish they'd figure a way around is the way Skills are addressed.  It would be nice to not have to say, "Alexa, tell Smart Things to . . . .", or "Alexa, turn Noon on", Noon being the Scene that raises the shades when the sun is off the window.  In other words, I'd like a step toward "simpler", but I realize the complexity of coming up with a system that's universal enough.
 
The one thing that any service intending to be the big player has to have is absolute consistency and reliability.  Alexa has been that pretty much from the beginning, but I'm sensing success may be slowing things down.
 
So far Alexa's competitors are mostly bit players and not very dangerous for Amazon.  
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Deane Johnson said:
This is certainly a useful topic for discussion.
 
I have 5 Alexas in use, mostly to operate my Z-Wave lighting.  My sense is that Amazon is being extremely cautious about introducing new things so as to not mess things up in the process.  Most changes that I've observed lately have been the simple responses from Alexa, such as "enjoy the sunshine" when it's actually shining, and "enjoy your weekend", etc.  Not especially useful, but an interesting "gee whiz".
 
I have noticed that Alexa seems to be slowing down more often than ever.  Of course, it could be caused by my system, but I'm inclined to think it's an overloaded server.  There used to be a half second delay in the response, now it's sometimes 2 to 4 seconds.  I have a 1 Gig internet connection, so it shouldn't be that.
 
The one thing I wish they'd figure a way around is the way Skills are addressed.  It would be nice to not have to say, "Alexa, tell Smart Things to . . . .", or "Alexa, turn Noon on", Noon being the Scene that raises the shades when the sun is off the window.  In other words, I'd like a step toward "simpler", but I realize the complexity of coming up with a system that's universal enough.
 
The one thing that any service intending to be the big player has to have is absolute consistency and reliability.  Alexa has been that pretty much from the beginning, but I'm sensing success may be slowing things down.
 
So far Alexa's competitors are mostly bit players and not very dangerous for Amazon.  
None of my skills require the two level request. In the beginning they all required it but as the skill of the coders improved it became redundant somehow.
 
I find Alexa improving by leaps and bounds. Alexa has added many "friendly" responses and become more user friendly. Cool but not really functional much. Google was far ahead of them on that one originally, but not anymore.
 
Vocal inputs and outputs are a great adjunct to home automation but they are not home automation, unlike the image they are attempting to sell. Most of what they are attempting to really sell, is monitoring of what we do.
 

pvrfan

Active Member
Lots of pundits were lauding voice control as the be-all and end-all of home automation.  To me, these articles are a realization that Alexa (in particular) doesn't actually make your house smart.  Obedient, maybe, but otherwise dumb as a hammer.
 
BTW, I listen to a couple of podcasts where they still go to great lengths not to say the word "Alexa" since it triggers devices in the listener's vicinity.  Is that still really a problem?  (I won't have Amazon or Google microphones in my house.)  How brain-dead is that?
 
Is it possible to have Alexa-based systems respond to events and conditions?  Eg do something if it is past sunset and the garage door has been open for more than 5 minutes?
 
Craig
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
pvrfan said:
Lots of pundits were lauding voice control as the be-all and end-all of home automation.  To me, these articles are a realization that Alexa (in particular) doesn't actually make your house smart.  Obedient, maybe, but otherwise dumb as a hammer.
 
BTW, I listen to a couple of podcasts where they still go to great lengths not to say the word "Alexa" since it triggers devices in the listener's vicinity.  Is that still really a problem?  (I won't have Amazon or Google microphones in my house.)  How brain-dead is that?
 
Is it possible to have Alexa-based systems respond to events and conditions?  Eg do something if it is past sunset and the garage door has been open for more than 5 minutes?
 
Craig
Events but not conditions or combinations of events.
 
I don't know why they hold back on that because then they could be called Home Automation for real. I suppose they would have to keep track of all events with the latest status for everything and they typically don't know anything about foreign devices.
 

Deane Johnson

Active Member
Craig and Larry.  That's an interesting thought to have Alexa respond to events, etc., just as software based home automation does.  I happen to use CQC in that regard, and also Alexa in addition for Z-Wave and Hue control as well as Alexa for some off/on items in my model train room.  I use the ISY994 for my Z-Wave master controller.  Absolutely love it.
 
I'd love to have Alexa expand into the software area (don't kill me Dean Roddey).  My reason for thinking it would be cool is that it would be easier to program, but I suppose we'd have to accept greater simplicity.  At age 84, it's getting harder for me to remember software procedures.  CQC's support is awesome, but being 84 isn't. :)
 
I suspect the biggest issue for Amazon to move ahead with response type capabilities is simply the shear volume of technical requirements to serve the whole world.  But then again, Jeff Bezos has created a heck of an empire already.  Who knows.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Deane Johnson said:
Craig and Larry.  That's an interesting thought to have Alexa respond to events, etc., just as software based home automation does.  I happen to use CQC in that regard, and also Alexa in addition for Z-Wave and Hue control as well as Alexa for some off/on items in my model train room.  I use the ISY994 for my Z-Wave master controller.  Absolutely love it.
 
I'd love to have Alexa expand into the software area (don't kill me Dean Roddey).  My reason for thinking it would be cool is that it would be easier to program, but I suppose we'd have to accept greater simplicity.  At age 84, it's getting harder for me to remember software procedures.  CQC's support is awesome, but being 84 isn't. :)
 
I suspect the biggest issue for Amazon to move ahead with response type capabilities is simply the shear volume of technical requirements to serve the whole world.  But then again, Jeff Bezos has created a heck of an empire already.  Who knows.
Alexa already responds to events. Using ISY,  ISY portal , and Alexa routines, my Alexa boxes say whatever I want the them to say. Look into using Alexa Routines, only available in the app, not on the website access.
 
Here is one that tickles the girls. Program a routine for vocal trigger to custom vocal output so it goes like this....
"Alexa, Alexa, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"
…"In a far way village named xxxxxxx, there is a woman named yyyyyyyy"
 
But this is still not automation, just parroting via a vocal trigger and dependant on cloud services that may disappear or start charging money at an time, and contributes to your information being sold to the highest bidder to be used against you. . The gap between cool remote control and HA is getting smaller .
 
How do you remember all that stuff using so many different systems? I have been slowly dropping my GH boxes because I can't remember my Alexa vocals that I used infrequently.  I won't make it to 84 with the health problems I am developing at 67.
 

tmbrown97

Senior Member
I still have a hard time trusting all these cloud-based systems.  I have some integration, sure - I can lay in bed watching TV with my AppleTV remote and with the same remote, say "Turn off the lights" and it turns off my RadioRA2 lights.  I've also recently integrated a Hubitat as well, along with a little bit of zigbee and zwave.  I'm treating the RRa2 as the permanent stuff that has to be the best, and the z-wave as stuff I'd unplug and take with me when I go.  We also have a ton of Alexa devices around the house and we use them for announcements.  We have them integrated into our whole house stereo, so walking by the Ecobee thermostat and saying "Announce Dinner is ready!" get a house-wide announcement.  That, and we can use it to control the Hue bulbs in the kids' rooms.  That's about it.
 
We're keeping the actual smarts in the hubitat locally.  In fact, I'm liking the cloud less and less... makes me want to ditch the Alexas and just throw a couple SIP phones around the house.  Not as simple, but much more private.  I'm really creeped out by the fact that my garage door usage is logged in the cloud somewhere!  Or if I come home with my wife's christmas presents in my hands, I have to remember to go delete the Ring recordings before she can see them.  Even when she's out of town, she may harass me asking where I went all day.
 
I really feel like the consumerization of the smart home killed it entirely.  It basically killed off the pro side of the house by commoditizing the hardware, while not being polished enough for people to really care long term after they tinkered with a little bit of it because it's just complex enough that the average person won't learn it.  It's become a fun gadget at best these days. 
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Work2Play said:
I really feel like the consumerization of the smart home killed it entirely.  It basically killed off the pro side of the house by commoditizing the hardware, while not being polished enough for people to really care long term after they tinkered with a little bit of it because it's just complex enough that the average person won't learn it.  It's become a fun gadget at best these days. 
 
The pro side is alive and well with Creston, Control-4 and the like.  I'd argue their numbers have been on a stable, slow, upward climb.

It's always been a fun gadget at the consumer level.
 
What's missing has been a genuinely easy to use hub in the house, one with it's own entirely local logic.  This is a tough nut to crack.  The sample size of users has long been too small to get a firm grip on what kind of functionality do folks really want/need.  
 
It's not up to technology to work around poor social behaviors.  Hiding this or that from the spouse is never going to work.  Nor is insisting on the surprise factor.  But that's hard for people to grasp, and points to much bigger trust factor issues (circling back to 'worries' about cloud data knowledge).  
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
wkearney99 said:
The pro side is alive and well with Creston, Control-4 and the like.  I'd argue their numbers have been on a stable, slow, upward climb.

It's always been a fun gadget at the consumer level.
 
What's missing has been a genuinely easy to use hub in the house, one with it's own entirely local logic.  This is a tough nut to crack.  The sample size of users has long been too small to get a firm grip on what kind of functionality do folks really want/need.  
 
It's not up to technology to work around poor social behaviors.  Hiding this or that from the spouse is never going to work.  Nor is insisting on the surprise factor.  But that's hard for people to grasp, and points to much bigger trust factor issues (circling back to 'worries' about cloud data knowledge).  
Aren't Control-4 and Creston completely locked down to only the authorised installers though, and the user is locked out of programming their own systems?
 
The reason I ask is, if that is the case, they are swimming upstream. Hobbyists want home automation, while the remote control crowd doesn't want the hassle involved with HA, only the convenience of voice and app, remote control. That seems counter intuitive to my first statement, provided there is truth in it. 
 

bucko

Active Member
Using cloud based "spy" devices like Alexis in your private home is a fools errand. It's unbelievable to me anyone would allow these devices in their home. Same goes with Ring, or any Goole security device.
People should re think thier use of these devices and how they are a threat to your family's safety.
 
Home automation is a wonderful addition to your home. I would suggest that going forward with your projects, take the time to research a devices ability to circumvent it's intended function and exactly what information it is gathering and to whom this info is available.
 
For me, I wouldn't put this crap within 500 feet of my home. I have no need to impress the neighbors with voice activation or talking to some cloud device plugged in directly to Google, Amazon, or Apple servers. 
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
bucko said:
Using cloud based "spy" devices like Alexis in your private home is a fools errand. It's unbelievable to me anyone would allow these devices in their home. Same goes with Ring, or any Goole security device.
People should re think thier use of these devices and how they are a threat to your family's safety.
 
Home automation is a wonderful addition to your home. I would suggest that going forward with your projects, take the time to research a devices ability to circumvent it's intended function and exactly what information it is gathering and to whom this info is available.
 
For me, I wouldn't put this crap within 500 feet of my home. I have no need to impress the neighbors with voice activation or talking to some cloud device plugged in directly to Google, Amazon, or Apple servers. 
Once we have achieved 100% perfect home automation, none of those voice or cloud services will be required.
 

tmbrown97

Senior Member
wkearney99 said:
Hiding this or that from the spouse is never going to work.  Nor is insisting on the surprise factor. 
Call me old fashioned I guess, but I still believe there should be some good surprises in a relationship - especially around gifts or things for my wife to see when she gets back in town.
 
Those pro systems you're talking about have a pretty small market - the ultra rich and most businesses won't care about a closed system - they'll design it once and leave it.  Just look at Hugh Heffner's house when he died - it was hard locked into the early 80's or so.
 
How much of your personal data, including habits, that you let other people log is a personal choice.  Regardless of how insignificant I may be in the grand scheme of things, I still prefer not to give too much away.
 

vc1234

Active Member
bucko said:
Using cloud based "spy" devices like Alexis in your private home is a fools errand. It's unbelievable to me anyone would allow these devices in their home. Same goes with Ring, or any Goole security device.
I am with you and Work2Play below on this one.
 
I'd use a local voice recognition system if one were available, but not Alexa.
 
There is a reliability/latency factor as well with all cloud services (I am rather well familiar with those as part of my income bringing occupation, with both AWS and Google Cloud offerings), but privacy or whatever is left of it is a bigger concern for me.
 
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