By Veronica Penney
In the past decade, manufacturers have incorporated Wi-Fi capabilities into an increasing number of consumer products, ranging anywhere from cars and common appliances, to fitness trackers and weight scales. These smart devices allow users to customize and automatize their home devices, but for the average homeowner, keeping track of all of a home’s internet-connected and smart devices, let alone taking full advantage of those devices, can pose a challenge.
Companies like Denver-based Josh have seized the opportunity to develop a central place for users to manage their increasingly connected homes. The AI company’s standalone system controls smart home devices like lights, temperature, and music. Josh is designed to respond to voice commands, but can also be managed remotely through a smartphone.
“People seem to understand the value right away, particularly as voice control has grown and become a very important interface for the home,” says Alex Capecelatro, Co-Founder and CEO of Josh. “Many technologies in the home are complicated to setup and use, frustrate the user, and don’t necessarily make their life simpler. Josh aimed at connecting all the smart devices into one central place, capable of accepting natural voice commands and learning over time.”
Josh goes far beyond voice commands for turning lights on and off. According to Capecelatro, the AI system can deeplink content, allowing users to give Josh commands like, “Watch Game of Thrones,” or “Play the White Album in the kitchen.” Users can also give Josh more complex, multiple-item commands as well, like “Turn on the lights, close the garage door, and play classical music downstairs.”
As more new home systems and devices are equipped with microphones for voice control and smart sensors, Capecelatro sees more opportunities to further interconnect home systems.
“In order to build a truly smart home that can learn, take in inputs, and make preemptive recommendations, you need everything in the home to be interconnected,” says Capecelatro.
More homes with smart devices means that large corporations like Comcast are also stepping onto the scene and finding ways to help people make their home networks more secure. Comcast recently launched Xfinity xFi, a dashboard for customers to manage their home network and all of their devices in one place. xFi is currently available to the roughly 10 million Comcast Xfinity Internet customers with a compatible Xfinity WiFi device.
Unlike Josh, Xfinity xFi is not a control center for home devices. Rather, it is a central place where users can manage their home Wi-Fi network. The Xfinity xFi online portal allows customers to view and modify their network name and passwords, as well as name and organize their Wi-Fi connected devices.
Useful security features include an option to receive text alerts when a new device joins the home network, the ability to instantly pause Wi-Fi access by device or user, and an activity monitor to see who is active on the network (and when).
“The adoption and use of connected devices has grown dramatically and Comcast has created a solution that makes it easy to control and manage them,” said Eric Schaefer, Senior Vice President of Internet and Communications Services for Comcast. “xFi is a personalized home Wi-Fi experience that gives customers the fastest speeds, best coverage and ultimate control in their homes.”
According to Comcast, in next three years, Americans will have an average of 50 Wi-Fi connected devices in their homes. As the number and sophistication of home devices grows, so do the opportunities for companies to improve the way that people interact with their devices.
“Although we’re very focused on voice control and interoperability today, we imagine a future where the UI disappears and the tech gets out of the way,” says Capecelatro. “Our goal is to provide a seamless experience where visitors can easily move about the house, orchestrating the environment to their wishes without ever having been trained on the system.”