From the early years of computing, we have been on the road to discover how much of our lives we can control with just our voice. This all started with the 1961 invention of IBM’s Shoebox, the first digital speech recognition tool ever built. It would recognize up to sixteen words and digits. Impressive right? Compared to today’s technology, maybe not, but the way had been opened for all kind of voice technology we have today.
Fast forward 50 years to 2011, Apple introduced Siri, the iPhone voice assistant. And two years later, Amazon introduces Alexa and Amazon Echo spot to its prime members. This was the world’s first glance at a smart speaker. Since then, Alexa, Siri and google assistant have become part of our lives. So what is a smart speaker, its uses and is there a need to buy it? Also included are the latest smart speakers to buy in 2018.
What exactly is a smart speaker?
A smart speaker is basically a wireless audio playback device that uses several types of connectivity (Bluetooth, Near Field Communication and WIFI) to provide additional functionality. Smart speakers have voice controls that you can basically use to make the speaker do specific functions. Originally the smart speakers were intended to deliver audio content from the user’s media and online files, but with the introduction of artificial intelligence and personalized personal assistants like Alexa, Siri and google assistant they can do more. Most smart speakers come in a single unit.
What do smart speakers do?
Apart from playing your favorite music, smart speakers can also provide more service and control your smart house, however, this depends on the type of artificial intelligence built in your smart speaker and the extent of your smart home. Here are some of the things you can do.
Set alarms and timers –
Sometimes you may be too occupied to set timers with your hands, or in the kitchen, your hands may be too messy to touch anything. This is where the voice commands come in, you just need to tell the speaker to set the timer. The best part is that you will not get the countdown but the alarm will ring at the designated time. The speaker will also serve as the alarm to wake you up in the morning.
Ask it questions –
You can use the smart speakers to ask it questions, like weather, directions and basically anything that you would like to know. Some of the smart speakers also have funny responses which makes them more fun to use.
Control your smart home –
With the use of IFTTT technology, you are able to set all kinds of functionality specific to the items that you have in your house. You can use voice commands to switch on and off your TV, turn lights on or off, lock doors and thermostats.
Use them as intercoms and to pick calls –
With the Amazon Echo Dot, you can use it to drop in on other Alexa enabled speakers that have the drop in feature enabled. With the google devices, you are able to broadcast to all Google home devices on your network. They can also be programmed to pick and call anyone you want.
Set reminders – You can use smart devices to store information that you will need later for you. This is important if you forget things easily.
Latest smart Bluetooth speakers to buy in 2018
Amazon Echo Dot –
This is still one of the best entry point smart speakers as Amazons smart voice assistant, Alexa is still better than the other competing assistants, such as Google’s Google assistant and Apple’s Siri. However, you will have to sacrifice sound quality for size and price. This is not a problem as it connects to your speakers.
Sonos one –
This is one of the best options if your main focus is the sound quality. It also has Alexa built in and Google assistant set to be added later this year. In short, it combines both google home and amazon echo features. It will also get Apples Airplay 2 later this year which will let you control it from Siri connected devices.
Google Home Mini –
This is the best Bluetooth smart speaker for personalized assistance. Google assistance uses google search engine, google maps and calendar which makes it more intelligent than Alexa or Siri devices.
Apple Home Pod –
This is one of the smart speakers that adapts its sound to your room to provide you with the best sound quality. You can also stream music from google’s music service. For controlling your smart home, you are limited to devices that work with Apple’s platform called Homekit.
Are smart speakers worth buying?
Having a device constantly listening to everything in your surroundings waiting to pick up your commands may be a legitimate privacy nightmare, however, this is not different from your smartphone. The companies constantly assure us that they don’t sell the information they collect but it is still a security and privacy concern. Also, buying a smart speaker from one manufacturer locks you into their ecosystem. This means that the devices may not be compatible with the rest of your smart home, this is a choice you have to make.
There are still many reasons why you should buy a Bluetooth smart speaker, you get to do more with just your voice instead of manually doing them. Technology is here to make your life easier. Just speak to it.