7 Ways to Control Your Home Using Voice Commands
By Joel Lee,
Make Use Of, 19 April 2016.

Getting started with a smart home is easier than you might think, and it won’t cost you much money either. In fact, the hardest part about having a smart home is researching and picking which projects to pursue!

And one of the coolest advancements in home automation is the growing integration of voice control with all kinds of smart devices. Wouldn’t be cool if you could start brewing coffee or shut the window blinds with a single voice command? Well, it’s possible.

Here are a number of different options that provide ways to integrate voice commands with various products. Check them all out because they’re all unique - go with the one that’s best suited for your needs.

1. With the Amazon Echo

Amazon wasn’t the first one to introduce voice control to the home, but it certainly brought the concept to the masses with the debut of the Echo. Technically speaking, the Echo is just a “wireless Bluetooth speaker” - but what makes it awesome is its ability to interact with other smart products.

The Echo is an always-listening device. For example, you can connect it to your Phillips Hue lights and turn them on or off just by saying, “Turn off the lights in the kitchen.” Other brands that the Echo can connect to include Belkin WeMo, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Insteon, and more.

You can also order additional units of the Echo Dot, which is a lite version of the Echo - it lacks the dedicated speaker (but allows you to hook up your own external) and thus costs half the price. All told, the Amazon Echo is one of the coolest products on the market right now. [Buy Now at Amazon.com]

Still not convinced? Check out these amazingly creative ways of using the Echo to automate various aspects of your home.

2. With CastleOS

CastleOS isn’t an operating system in the common sense. It’s just a central “engine” that runs on Windows and connects to a whole host of smart devices, acting as the central “operator” between all of the smart devices in your home. Few people know about it, but it’s really awesome.

In order to use voice commands, you’ll need to hook up a Microsoft Kinect. I know, you probably don’t have a Kinect just sitting around your house, but once you realize that CastleOS lets you create custom voice C# scripts that can do almost anything, you’ll want to invest in one. [Buy Kinect for Windows at Amazon.com] [Buy Xbox One Kinect Sensor at Amazon.com]

CastleOS supports every major smart home protocol right out of the box: Nest, WeMo, Z-Wave, Ecobee, X10, Sonos, Insteon, Lutron, and more. It’s also future-proofed thanks to its open architecture, meaning future protocols can be integrated later on without much hassle.

3. With Google Now


If you’re an Android user and you aren’t using Google Now yet, then you’re seriously missing out. It can do some amazing stuff, including a lot of hands-free convenience while driving as well as the ability to control third-party apps with your voice.

But what’s even more impressive is that Google Now can now automate your home life. Not directly, unfortunately, but with a bit of IFTTT magic, you’ll be able to create all kinds of automated tasks and integrations that will make your home life easier and more enjoyable.

Perhaps the best example is how Google Now can integrate with Nest Thermostats through IFTTT, and if you use it well enough, you could easily end up slashing your home heating bill in half every month. Other integration ideas include Fitbits, WeMo devices, SmartThings products, Wink appliances, etc.

Sure, Google Now doesn’t integrate with all of these things directly, but who cares? Not only is IFTTT amazing, but you’ll also be able to use IFTTT for hundreds of other ideas too, so you might as well learn it anyway.

4. With the Ivee Voice

Not many people have heard about Ivee, mainly because the company hasn’t made anything too noteworthy yet. If you look on Amazon you’ll find a few devices that never got much traction, like the Flex (voice-controlled radio) and the Digit (voice-controlled alarm clock).

Now Ivee is stepping up to the big leagues with the Voice, a voice-controlled home assistant that’s reminiscent of the aforementioned Amazon Echo. The Voice promises to connect and control all kinds of smart devices and services.

It actually looks quite promising, but the downside is that it’s still in the final stages of development and production. You can preorder one of these for US$99 and receive it by April or May 2016, but there are only 54 units left for grabs as of this writing.

Or you can wait for mass production, which is currently on track to begin in September with the first public units shipping in October.

5. With the Nucleus

The Nucleus is an interesting product because it’s a unique device with a specific purpose - a “smart intercom” that facilitates better communication between friends and family members, not just within the same house but between multiple houses if necessary.

There are three big features to know about: room-to-room video, home-to-home video, and mobile-to-home video. It’s like a dedicated Skype or FaceTime device that’s surprisingly flexible with a lot of auxiliary features that you’ll probably like.

Indeed, the Nucleus can do a lot of other stuff. It works as a music player, a security camera network, a baby monitor, but most importantly, it can seamlessly integrate with Nest, SmartThings, and Insteon devices right out of the box. [Buy Nucleus Smart Home Intercom at Amazon.com]

And because the Nucleus supports voice commands, this means you’ll be able to control those connected smart devices just by speaking.

Obviously there are better solutions if voice control is the main thing you need, but if you’re planning to get a smart intercom anyway, then this is a wonderful bonus feature to have.

6. With Microsoft Cortana

The Internet of Things is gaining in popularity these days and a lot of companies are taking note of it. In fact, there are some big names working their way into the whole IoT trend, and one of those big names is Microsoft with its Cortana integration.

If you haven’t heard, Cortana will one day be able to connect to and control all kinds of devices around your house, including your refrigerator, washing machine, lights, and more - and you’ll be able to control all of it from a distance with a compatible Windows device.

The downside is that Microsoft isn’t exactly known for its care of user privacy (as evidenced by all the privacy issues in Windows 10) so if you’re worried about smart devices tracking your personal data then you’ll probably want to stay away from this option.

7. With Siri + HomeKit

For those who don’t know, Apple actually has a framework for smart devices called HomeKit, and with it you can integrate and control said smart devices using an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. In fact, you can even control HomeKit devices with Siri!

The tech is relatively new, but we’ve already started experimenting with it. For example, check out how to create a Siri-controlled Wi-Fi light. Or take it one step further and create a Siri-controlled Sonos sound + lights system. It’s pretty cool what you can do.

But as you can see from the instructions, the process is pretty advanced and not exactly user-friendly. The sad thing is that even though HomeKit has been out for a few months now, there still aren’t many HomeKit-compatible devices, so the possibilities are quite limited at the moment.

For now, you’d probably be better off with one of the other options in this post or foregoing the voice control in favor of IFTTT-based smart home integrations instead.

How Will You Voice Control Your Home?

These aren’t the only options out there, but they are the ones that are most exciting and show the most potential for mainstream adoption. However, if you’re more of a DIY person and want to try something more complex, check out Jasper and VoxCommando.

On the whole, remember that smart home automation isn’t expensive and is simple enough that anyone can get involved. Not sure where to start? Try these smart home products that are well worth the money, and when you explore further, stick to these reputable smart home brands.

Top image: The CastleHUB. Credit: CastleOS.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Top image added.]

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