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The Smart Home

A smart home is one where its residents make use of advanced automation systems for a more efficient, secure and comfortable lifestyle. A smart house will typically have appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that can (i) communicate with each other and that can also be (ii) controlled remotely.

A smart appliance uses computer and communication technology to make the appliance more useful - faster, cheaper, more efficient with additional features. Some examples of smart devices are: smart TVs, action cameras and smart locks for enhanced home security.

Wearable Technology - A smarter way to a healthier life

Activity Trackers (a smart fitness accessory):
Activity trackers measure your steps, heart rate, sleep and other basic fitness parameters. You can sync these trackers with your mobile phone and even set reminders (its time to exercise!).

Smart Watches (a smart fitness accessory):
smartwatch is a computerized wristwatch with functionality that goes beyond timekeeping. The main benefit of a smartwatch is that it keeps you constantly updated. Therefore you no longer need to reach out for your smartphone for obtaining such information.

Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Assistants

Thanks to "Artificial Intelligence", the capabilities of Virtual Assistants is expanding rapidly (as of year 2017). A Virtual Assistant is a software program (application) that can perform actions on behalf of an individual. Some examples of popular software based intelligent agents are: (i) Siri from Apple, (ii) Google Assistant, (iii) Cortana from Microsoft and (iv) Alexa from Amazon.

Virtual Assistants

Virtual Assistants can also perform digital speech recognition by using NLP (Natural Language Processing) that allows voice [or text] to be used as an input command. As an example, Siri on the iPhone responds to voice commands and so does Amazon Alexa on the Amazon Echo device.

Smart Speakers

A Smart Speaker is both "Wireless" and "Smart". The use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth helps make these speakers not only wireless but also smart devices. These technologies can automatically handle compatiability issues between different types of devices available for connection and are often used in home automation software.

Alexa from Amazon

Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as Echo). Alexa was the first Virtual Assistant to get the ability to place online e-commerce orders from Amazon.

A list of some functions that Alexa can perform
  • Home automation - Alexa can interact with several types of devices.
  • Ordering - Alexa can be used for ordering take-away food.
  • Music - Alexa supports streaming and subscription services.
  • Sports - Sports updates can be heard by using Alexa.
  • Messaging and Email - Alexa supports several types of messaging services.
Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is a smart speaker developed by Amazon. The device consists of a 9.25 inch tall cylindrical speaker with a seven-piece microphone array. The device connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which responds to the name "Alexa".

Amazon Echo Dot

The Echo, Tap, Dot are very similar smart speakers, in that they perform nearly all the same functions, with some minor differences. The Echo Dot is a mini Echo. The Echo Dot is smaller in size with a 3.5 mm output jack and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect it to your current sound system. The Dot has smaller speakers within in case you don't want to connect it to an external speaker. With the Echo Dot you can connect to and control all of your smart home devices, as well as your existing audio set-up at a very low cost (of $50 approx).