When Google was the first tech giant to release smart speakers in Australia in July 2017, there might have been more curiosity and caution than excitement. What was this new voice-activated device promising to answer all our questions?
New stats from SCA Research show 13% of Aussie households now have at least one smart speaker, and 54% of people who don’t have one yet are planning on buying one soon.
What is a smart speaker?
It’s a speaker capable of more than just making sound, but also listening to your voice commands and responding appropriately. Unlike a child, it will always listen to what you say. The tech behind them is artificial intelligence built by the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon. If you’ve used Siri in your phone, this is Siri permanently on your bedside table.
What can a smart speaker do?
Maybe the question should be, what can’t it do? With an ever expanding list of ways to automate tasks around your home, the options will always be changing.
It’s a pro at the simple stuff, like playing a song or a podcast, telling you what the temperature is or if you need a raincoat today. If you’re getting ready to go shopping, it can help you build a list while you call out everything missing from your fridge, then when you get home it can talk you through cooking dinner step by step. But by far the coolest things smart speakers can do is help you automate your home. More on that in a moment, but first, what does the survey say people are really using their smart speakers for?
The latest figures from SCA Research show 60% of people use their speakers to play music or listen to the radio, while just over a quarter find it handy for weather updates. 19% of people use the search function to ask questions, 11% use it as an alarm clock or timer and the cleverest 9% have gone all the way into home automation.
When it comes to automation, the possibilities only end with your imagination or bank account. Around the house you can do anything from controlling your garage door and window blinds to keeping tabs on your security system and heating or cooling. But there’s one clear winner for home automation – controlling your lights. 73% of people who use their smart speaker for automation are controlling their lights! And this is where I upgraded my own house.
After a bit of research I settled on one particular range of lights, the smart bulbs from Lifx. Firstly they connect straight to your Google Home or Amazon Echo without needing any extra equipment – just the bulb in the socket. Secondly Lifx started as an Aussie company, designing it’s first lights in Melbourne.
For the last few weeks I’ve been putting three different bulbs through their paces. We’ve installed the Lifx Mini White in a lamp in my sons room. This was our first smart bulb, picked instead of getting a night light for our 8 month old. Using this instead of a night light meant we could switch it on and off it from out of his room, but best of all control the brightness. Leaving it at 1% is perfect to see where you’re going in the dark, and when it’s time for a nappy change at 2am it’s as simple as “hey google, set the brightness on Spencers’ lamp to 20%” and it’s done. The cutest thing is the smile on my sons face when the smart speaker says his name each time the light is adjusted.
We put our second smart bulb in another lamp, in our living area. This time a Mini Colour. It’s the same size as the Mini White, but adds 16 million colour options. How about playing “guess the colour” at your next house party? While this bulb isn’t bright enough to take care of a huge room, it’s powerful enough to read under.
Finally we installed the beast of smart bulbs in our main lounge, the Lifx A19.This packs all the features of the Mini Colour, but in a more powerful light. These lights can be dimmed by the app or your smart speaker to your desired brightness between 1%-100%. At only 50% brightness the A19 is more than enough to light a large room.
There are so many features of smart lighting I’m not evening using yet, such as automating on and off times for every day of the week and syncing your colours to music when it’s party time!
So if you already have a smart speaker, or need a convincing reason to get one – upping your lighting game could be the answer. It’s not the cheapest option for replacing a busted globe, but in the long run it might make sense. While you’ll pay about $35 for a basic smart bulb, it promise to last almost 23 years at an average use of 3 hours a day. That could work out cheaper than replacing a regular globe over the same time.