January 28, 2021

13 Smart Home Tech Features To Anticipate In The Next Decade

Smart home tech has made life a lot easier for many homeowners. Voice assistants like Alexa are among the most popular and well-known of the bunch, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as far as home tech is concerned.

Over the next 10 years, we're likely to see a revolution in how electronic devices interact with each other and impact our lives. New innovations like internet-of-things (IoT) devices that can transform regular homes into smart homes are already becoming more affordable. Below, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council discuss some of the smart innovations and key features of home tech they expect to see become commonplace within the next decade.

1. Seamless Integrations

I expect to see seamless integrations in the next few years. We can already integrate home assistants with the rest of the home ecosystem — streaming services, HVAC, security, alarms, etc. But let’s get real — integration is often clunky, burdensome and it takes multiple hurdles to get it done. Imagine walking into your home and announcing to Alexa, "I have a new device. Connect it with…" - David Moise, Decide Consulting

2. Fully Integrated Security

Fully integrated security systems will become the norm over the next decade, combining physical security for the home and cybersecurity for digital devices. Today, cybersecurity for the home is actually pretty lax, especially in terms of Wi-Fi networks that are vulnerable to hacking. Expect smart home providers to add cybersecurity measures to their suite of services. - John Shin, RSI Security

3. More AI And ML Integration

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will become more commonplace as integrations with smart devices. Think smart reordering of home supplies and consumables or monitoring of behaviors like electricity usage and home comfort systems to optimize cost and environmental experience. Currently we can tell devices like Alexa to do these things, but in the coming years, it will be done for us. - Mike Frey, Yellow Basket, LLC

4. Extended Role Of Voice Assistants

While voice assistants would be more advanced to be able to do more than schedule calendar appointments, they would extend to doing more such as turning on appliances, and actually be able to do other things such as park your car, answer the door and many more connectivity activities that technology would be able to support. - Lydia Miller, TATA consultancy Services

5. Voice Biometrics

Smart assistants will be reliable and with a fair degree of precision be able to tell who is issuing the commands, so that they can perform complex tasks — such as checking emails, making financial transactions, etc. Voice biometrics is already a thing but will mature over the next few years to become more prolific. - Suresh Sambandam, Kissflow

6. Interactive Robot Assistants

Devices like iRobot are pretty common today and robotics and AI technologies, fast evolving. In a few years, interactive robot assistants will become an integral part of our day-to-day life. They can help perform common household chores, manage connected devices, ensure home security and make our lives more efficient. Not to mention, for people with special needs they can play a much bigger role. - Meeta Dash, Verta.ai

7. Intelligent AI Operating System

While Alexa is the voice interface for the home, we need an intelligent AI operating system to handle "everything" at home (similar to "Her"). This OS would have basic technical features (work from home, energy, cleaning, safety, physical and cybersecurity, sanitation, AV, gaming, payments) at home, office and community levels, as well as ) integration with smart city (all government services), and personal function (social media, e-commerce). - Satyam Bheemarasetti, NeoSilica Technologies Private Limited

8. Virtual Interactive Displays

Voice assistants are nice but I'm looking forward to virtual and interactive displays in the home that complement the voice experience. Not a wearable, but ideally something that's projected. - Elias Guerra, Popwallet

9. House Health Monitoring

The hottest thing in the next five to 10 years will be an assistant robot that tells the vitals of your house as well as scope out oddities. This will be an evolution of the drone monitoring system. People will have home health dashboards that are especially synchronized with the health of their mortgage payments. - WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer

10. Smart Locks

Smart locks, for sure, will be an omnipresent feature. Current technology is quite clunky, and technology is coming up with new and more secure ways of adding greater security. - Irsa Faruqui, RetroCube - Software and Mobile Application Development Company

11. Smart Toilets

I predict that smart toilets will become a tech feature in homes over the next 5 to 10 years. COVID has proven that a smart toilet can help monitor for viruses, diseases and vitamin deficiencies. It will be an early indicator for many health issues. - Brian Keith, Microsoft

12. Smart Solar Panels

I expect to see smart solar panels mounted on roofs. This is in line with the urgency around climate action and sustainability. With this, every house could also resell power back to the electricity grid and contribute toward a circular economy. As smart solutions are all potential attack surfaces for cyber criminals, digital risk could increase in tandem, and we see cybersecurity also taking increased priority. - Kumar Ritesh, CYFIRMA

13. Always-On TV Screens

TVs will eventually be left on all the time and connected to the rest of your ecosystem so that they can show alerts or aid in tasks more easily. They'll passively show art or photos from friends and family, a constant news feed of your own social circle, and your voice will be the remote for most activities. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

April 30, 2020

Relying More On Voice-Activated Tech? 10 Important Things Users Should Know

Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa are a few of the more common voice-activated assistants, but they aren't the only tech that utilize voice control. As speech recognition tech has become easier to incorporate and more efficient in performing its tasks, more app designers have begun to include it in their development.

As exciting as this is, there are still many unknowns regarding voice-activated technology’s potential, as well as its impact on privacy and security. As with any new technology, we don't know for sure what the pitfalls of voice tech are and what negative aspects we could be facing down the road. Below, 10 members of Forbes Technology Council share some of the most important things users should know about their voice-activated tech.

1. It Comes With Security Risks

Users need to know about the security risks of voice-activated technology. There is a risk that sensitive corporate or personal data may be overheard when data is retrieved or transactions performed. Therefore, I recommend avoiding using this technology in public places or while traveling. - Nelson Cicchitto, Avatier Corporation

2. It's About Privacy Versus Convenience

While voice-activated technologies like Siri and Alexa offer the convenience of fast retrieval of data, consumers should be aware that these devices have the potential to be "always on." Be sure to check system settings and know when your voice data is being aggregated. Perhaps the biggest concern isn't what they are storing, but when they are actually recording you without your knowledge. - Steven Khuong, Curacubby

3. Voice Tech Is Getting Smarter

Communication with voice assistants hasn’t always been seamless, as factors such as location and environmental noise generally influence results. However, voice tech is getting smarter at recognizing these contextual factors and devices that can distinguish separate voices, and can decipher different contextual factors to make the conversation more convenient and efficient. - Sanjay Malhotra, Clearbridge Mobile

4. You Can't Know What It’s Storing Exactly

While these technologies are cool, they bring a level of privacy invasion as well. The device gets smarter as we use it; however, we are not sure what else it's storing when we are not giving a command to it. Ensuring that the settings are set to off/sleep mode is important to ensure that private conversations are not stored. - Bhavna Juneja, Infinity, a Stamford Technology Company

5. It Will Become More Ubiquitous

AI and IoT are moving us into a post-screen world. Soon, our interactions with technology will involve less typing and button-clicking and more natural forms of expression, like speaking. Voice-activated tech will be found everywhere. From the office to the car to retail stores, expect this tech to open up a dialogue with everyone around the world. - Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

6. It Provides Increased Accessibility Options

We often assume that robots will be humanoid. In fact, it seems they will be invisible, but ever-present. What voice-activated tech is doing, however, is also removing the burden of the interface. Senior citizens and those who are technologically challenged (especially non-English speaking or illiterate) will be able to access services never accessible before. - Suresh Sambandam, Kissflow

7. It Offers Easier Access To Entertainment

We can access entertainment more easily than ever before. Most consumers use voice services for basic commands at home like turning on the lights, but we can also enjoy thousands of shows, movies, music and podcasts with a simple voice command. This benefit will become even more seamless (and frankly, fun) as audio developers continue to better integrate voice capabilities into more products. - Brendon Stead, Sound United

8. Voice Tech Can Travel With You

Most people use their voice-activated tech while at home, but did you know it also travels with you? Most are available through an app, as well as being native to your smartphone. Use it wherever you are, not just at home. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

9. It Can Improve Conference Call Efficiency

While we're used to talking into voice assistant devices, the tech is also coming live into conference calls to help with common meeting tasks. Imagine asking "Hey, Ziggy, call Sean's mobile and add him to this call" or "Hey, Ziggy, what is the next time available for everyone on this call?" Technologies in modern communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) enable these capabilities. - Steve Pao, Hillwork, LLC

10. It Only Shows You The Top Result

Voice experiences can't show you lots of information like your typical search engine—they have to pick the best answer and only provide that. Most information hasn't been customized for an auditory experience, but standards are emerging that let content creators tag their content to be voice-search-friendly. Voice experiences will improve exponentially as data becomes more tailor-made for voice. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

January 6, 2020

Five Real Life Emerging Technology Examples that Really Work

These tools can seem daunting for many companies to even consider. But what we don’t always hear about are how regular companies are using them to improve the digital experiences they provide to clients. These technologies can help companies of all shapes and sizes deliver hyper-personalized content and experiences with increased speed, simplicity and value to their users. And, don’t forget they can also help amplify acquisition, conversion, retention and engagement with your customers. These technologies have moved beyond the realm of “what’s possible” and into the hands of users who have grown to expect them as it makes their lives easier and more delightful. And they don’t have to only be used by the most giant of brands.

Here’s a few practical, relatively simple applications that I’ve seen that have truly benefited end users across a variety of different scenarios.


WILL MY BAG FIT?

Augmented reality was used to create an innovative bag scanning tool that lives inside an airlines’ consumer-facing mobile experience. Via this tool, users can check if their carry-on bag will fit in the overhead compartment prior to coming to the airport. Pretty handy and super helpful in ensuring customers don’t run into any hiccups at the airport before travel.


HIRE ME!

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence was used to power a “matchmaking” experience for candidates applying for jobs. This technology instantaneously matches candidates and jobs without the need for formal job applications. This digital business enhancement has transformed the traditional model and has reduced the typical time it takes to get hired by 75%.

HELP ME STAY HEALTHY

An IoT and On-Demand Delivery feature in this healthcare app provides users with doorstep delivery of needed health aids and Bluetooth connected health metrics. This allows medical professionals to easily segment and monitor high-risk patient populations to identify early stage indicators of morbidity and help prevent urgent hospital visits. The experience has resulted in a 95% patient satisfaction rate and reductions in readmission’s that are as high as 50%.

TALK TO ME

A Voice skill was used to reduce friction within this high-growth situational intelligence company’s platform that connects with up to 44 cloud-based services and autonomously delivers hyper-relevant information to their users.

THIS PLACE IS HUGE

Interactive Wayfinding was used in an on-property consumer-facing app to help users navigate a very large casino property and help make their experience better and more engaging. The experience has 2.5M users worldwide and 70% of active users leveraged the experience more than once a week.

As hopefully this article has pointed out, there are ways to leverage these types of technologies for basically any type of business out there. And, as an upside, your business will have access to new data sets that can ultimately benefit any business. Add in a little predictive modeling and you can begin to add levels of personalization for specific targeted user segments that once wasn’t possible. Net net, finding real ways to leverage emerging technologies within your business will enhance your digital experience with more habit-forming features that can lead to maximum acquisition and engagement across the board.

This piece was originally published at Medium.com/rocket-fuel.

March 21, 2018

Creating your Voice Assistant Strategy

This piece was originally published at Forbes.com.

Voice interactions with digital devices are not new. Dragon's Naturally Speaking has been around since the late 1990s, and speech-to-text in some capacity has been on almost every device available since then. What has changed are the integrations and capabilities and, of course, the accuracy. Alexa is now able to order almost anything from Amazon, Siri can send messages and set up reminders and Cortana opens desktop applications and sends emails. The Google Assistant, for which I develop apps at Bottle Rocket, aims to provide a lot of this same functionality, with a few enhancements along the way.

NOW IS THE TIME

The number of voice interactions is growing exponentially, and the opportunities for companies to get in front of users are following suit. As accuracy and capabilities grow, so does consumer demand across every platform. When people look at new Internet of Things (IoT) devices, they're expecting integration with Alexa or Google Home. It's becoming more common for family members to ask their favorite voice assistant to play the music they want, instead of loading up their music app and searching for it manually. Even children are learning that talking to the assistant can result in faster answers than a browser search, even if the results are the same. If you want to create a voice-based app for your company, now is the time to start working on it.

CHOOSE YOUR PATH

When people think about your company, what do they think about as the primary interaction? This is a good place to start when building a voice-based app. If you’re a national food chain that focuses on delivery, your voice app needs to let people order food. If you’re not sure what people might want, ask your support channels about the users they connect with. They will likely know the top three requests off the top of their head.

Besides responding to user requests, you can also use a voice app to educate customers about other products and services you have. Maybe you want people to think about larger catering orders for their office, not just family-size orders. You can mention that as one option in the conversation, much like you would present it as an option in a smartphone app.

You’ll want to meet user’s basic expectations about your brand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer new ideas that help guide users to new areas or experiences. Regardless of which way the user goes, you’ll need to help them finish the task at hand or offer a way out if they feel like they’ve gone too far. If they get stuck, you can provide options on how to answer the current question, but you also should let them exit a conversation or start over if they decide they really don’t want to do something.

HOW MACHINE LEARNING FITS IN

Google has doubled down on using machine learning in all their products, and their assistant backend, Dialog Flow, is no exception. The best example is the machine learning of triggering phrases that start various actions. Many examples are entered, such as “start an order,” “place an order” and “I want to order,” and then Dialog Flow creates models based on these entries to help find the ordering activity. Then, even when someone says “Make an order,” the model will determine that the user probably wants to start the ordering activity. This means that users don’t have to spend as much time learning how to use the app.

But what if the user says something that doesn’t match any specific action? Your app won’t know what to do. This happens all the time in normal conversation -- we’re just used to dealing with it, and voice apps have contingencies for this. The Google Assistant calls these “fallback” actions. Maybe your Assistant should say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” It could also provide a list of valid options for the question it asked. For example, the list of toppings you allow that you were expecting the user to pick from. To make it more natural, you can vary these responses, so the user doesn't hear "I'm sorry, please repeat that" over and over.

Finally, all of the phrases people say to your app that aren’t understood are saved and sorted, so that later you can decide what to do with them. You can help train the AI model on new phrases you want to trigger existing actions, or you might create an action that helps explain to the user why it can’t do a common request that you’re seeing. Even more than that, you can see what people are requesting and use that to build your future roadmap.

A MORE PERSONAL INTERACTION

When it comes to voice interfaces, there is no wrong input, only unexpected input. People are going to say random things, and you have to be prepared for it. I’ve learned that the tools have gotten a lot better in the past year, and we’re seeing even more improvement on the horizon. Voice apps can help users accomplish the tasks they want quickly, but it can also be a tool to educate users on what’s possible.

People are looking for ways to have a more personal experience with technology, one that feels custom-tailored to their unique needs. Voice interactions can provide this if they really listen to the customer and take advantage of all the interactions you have across all your users. Your company or brand now has a very personal way to talk to your customers, so think about the personality you want to present and how you can help them, and you’re likely to end up as a trusted advisor.

September 19, 2017

5 Big Ideas from our Product Owner’s Guide to the Universe at MWCA

We had a stellar program for “Mobile Product Owner’s Guide to the Universe” at Mobile World Congress Americas. There were a ton of ideas that came from our speakers during the all-day event, and these are five of the most interesting:

1. Exponential Acceleration — and Convergence — of Lots of Tech (AI, AR, VR, MR, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Mobile and More)

“We used to say disruption is the new normal,” said Tom Edwards, Chief Digital Officer at Epsilon in his keynote address. “But now, I see this more as exponential acceleration. It’s more about consolidation and bundling of existing technologies.” With the rise of interconnected systems, marketers will need to keep up with customer expectations for seamless, intuitive, lightning fast, “magical” experiences with technologies. See Tom’s video that dives into the themes in his keynote here:

2. Leaving Room for Innovation (and Making Sure Your Definition of Innovation is Helping Not Hurting You)

Organizations can’t stop everything to innovate — but they can’t afford to fall behind either. It’s important, said panelists Todd Stricker with MarriottScott Cuppari with Coca-Cola Freestyle and Dorothy Jensen from Southwest Airlines to leave bandwidth on your teams to experiment, ideate and stay ahead of the game — even if many of the ideas never make it into production. They also advocated for carefully considering how your team defines innovation.

 Todd Stricker with Marriott, Scott Cuppari with Coca-Cola Freestyle and Dorothy Jensen from Southwest Airlines at MWCA17

“We frequently define innovation as unlocking value we weren’t unlocking before,” said Stricker. “Re-defining innovation in those terms helps people think in the problem spaces we’re really attacking to unlock customer value. That helps break the paradigm that innovation has to be a massive new crazy thing. It can be at a micro-level, and super meaningful when you’re dogging customer problems and making things better for them.”

3. It’s Time to Revisit A Few Technologies You Might Have Written Off

Technologies you might have tried a few years ago have matured: write them off at your own risk. For example, AI and natural language processing have helped create vast improvements in chatbots and voice assistants, as Vera Tzoneva, Global Product Partnerships, Google Assistant demonstrated.

VR technology is also better and more immersive than it’s ever been, said Andy Mathis, Mobile Partnerships and Business Development Lead at Oculus. For brands that want to connect with customers through indelible, immersive experiences, VR is an avenue that’s waiting to be explored. Red Bull’s VR hub lets you go cliff diving, fly a plane in the Red Bull air race and more, connecting with their adreneline-fueled branding. Tom’s in-store VR experience (see below) makes you an eyewitness and participant, making their brand promise of “buy a pair give a pair” come to life for customers.

4. Creating a Continuous Stream of Crowd-Sourced Customer Feedback to Help Drive Your Product Roadmap

Getting more (and more balanced) customer feedback helps product and marketing teams act on better, more balanced data about what customers want and need more quickly said Rob Pace, CEO of HundredX — and helps bake a listening culture into your organization. That’s critical for ensuring your products and features align to what real customers really want — not just what your team thinks they want.

Rob Pace, CEO of HundredX at MWCA

5. Data-Fueled Context is Increasingly Critical for Personalized Marketing

“The internet of things is too focused on the things,” said Dimitri Maex, President of Sentiance. “It’s on its way to becoming the internet of you — and I believe that will happen through AI and data.”

Maex shared how — using movement, location and time data from mobile phones — it’s possible to learn an enormous amount about a user’s context (Are they walking, driving, boating? Are they near home, work or school? Where are they likely to be going next?) and customize their experience for 1:1 interactions fast and at scale.

The exclamation point at the end gives me cavities, but a period is too bored... Thank you to our speakers, everyone in attendance, and our super smart, super helpful sponsors who helped make it all happen!

Also a big thank you to Urban Airship for this amazing recap! (original article)

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