The Echo is an automated Bluetooth speaker with advanced wireless capabilities. The advanced features include compatibility with smart home devices and more.
The voice controlled personal assistant has taken the digital world by storm.
While we’re still a long way from robot butlers, smart speakers are definitely a step in the right direction. The new smart speaker systems are groundbreaking in wireless technology giving users the ability to control their homes by voice command.
Previously we looked at Google Home and Amazon Echo, the pros and cons, the similarities and the differences and everything in-between. However it’s often forgotten that when a new device such as this makes an appearance, that there are many brands out there that have similar products that have just as much potential as the well known ones.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of all the greatest alternatives, for those that like the idea of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but want something a little different.
While still in the pre order stage, we can already say that ivee voice is a fantastic alternative.
Ivee really stands out from the crowd as it’s made to be compatible with a multitude of smart home systems – the perfect companion for controlling your smart home. There’s support for Nest, Hue, SmartThings, WeMo, Iris, Wink, Logitech and more.
As with other devices, ivee voice operates as a wireless bluetooth speaker, streaming music from the app of your choice or you can tap into the built in spotify.
The ivee speaker has a 15 foot hearing radius which enables you to call out to the device from anywhere in the room and – if you’re further away then you can use the smartphone app to deliver commands.
It will soon be able to call you an Uber, make dinner reservations, and order takeout food.
Simply say “Okay ivee” to wake the device and follow up with whatever command you have, for example “set the thermostat in the master bedroom to 24 degrees”. You can use the smartphone app for simple set-up and control.
The ivee app lets you customize your favorite devices and services to create Scenes. For example you say “It’s Movie Time” and you’ve pre set the blinds to lower, the TV turns on, lights dim, and temperature decreases. All that’s missing is the popcorn.
Ivee even has the capabilities to order food and read you books.
The team behind CastleOS – a smart home friendly operating system – have introduced the Castle Hub.
The Hub is powered by Windows 10 and includes a 30GB SSD for storage. It’s not just a smart home controller, it’s a full-fledged computer of its own. It can even run apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.
The team behind CastleOS created the Castle Hub to take advantage of the power of the operating system to run your entire house with voice commands. Its ability to work with Microsoft Kinect means you can use a multi-microphone setup to take advantage of voice control throughout your entire house!
The CastleHUB is one of the most powerful smart home hub in the world. Combining home automation, voice control, security, entertainment, and apps like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and more
Another smart speaker that hasn’t yet hit the market, but is definitely going to be worth the wait, is the Cubic.
The home-based device can look up TV show schedules, order food, answer questions, and control your smarthome devices.
The mobile app can do even more than that, it can help you get directions, control your home devices from afar, remind you where you parked, and keep track of your exercise. It’s an all round tool for your home, with the capability, thanks to the smartphone app, to be controlled in the same room as the device or even from miles apart.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a smart home controller without virtual assistant support. Just call out to Cubic and tell it what you want, and it will spring into action.
The Athom Homey has been designed with an open platform making it one of the most customizable smart home controllers to date. The device can communicate via wifi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, infrared, and NFC making it even more capable.
By using seven different radios, the Homey communicates with all devices in your home. It has natural language processing abilities that enable you to speak in a normal dialect to control them, they also have the abilities to update and adjust to the way you speak.
The app also lets you exercise your control when you’re away from home, and will help you monitor thermostats, cameras, and locks from the smartphone app.
Mycroft, first and foremost is a smart home controller. You can tap into all of your connected smart devices to control them remotely with voice commands. It’s built on open source hardware, therefore you can do a lot of things that some of the other controllers can’t.For example, you can ask the Mycroft device to post updates to your social media account, fire up a Roomba for a cleaning, and much more. You can even remotely send files to a 3D printer and get it all fired up, if you have one.
Mycroft sets itself apart from other smarthome voice controllers by basing its hardware on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino single-board computers. It really is set to be revolutionary in the way of personal smart home assistants, unfortunately as it stands Mycroft is also still in the pre order stages.
Triby Kitchen Speaker
Invoxia’s Triby kitchen speaker is one of the first non-Amazon devices to tap into their virtual assistant. Basically, the Triby speaker will perform just as the Amazon Echo, even allowing you to call upon Alexa for help. So due to the large similarities, we’ll skip over these and just focus on the other unique features that Triby has to offer.
Triby features an array of microphones and In Vivo Acoustic Technology with background noise cancellation to ensure that it can hear your command even in busy environments or with music playing.
The sophisticated microphones work with the speaker to turn Triby into a hands-free speakerphone allowing wifi calls to be made or with paired smartphones from up to 15 feet away.
This fantastic feature means you can programme important numbers into the Triby device creating a simple way to call up all the important numbers – great for kids who want a quick way to reach grandparents without the hassle of needing their own phone.
With the Triby app you can send messages, doodles and emoji’s to the E-ink display, leaving messages and reminders for your family wherever you are.
The Triby speaker also supports Spotify Connect, which means it can play music on its own. It is simple to setup and simple to use, perfect for the whole family. It features a strong magnet to allow it to be kept on the fridge and a durable metal body to protect it from all the wear and tear of family life.
HAL – Home Automated Living
Created in the 90s, HAL controls your home using voice commands. HAL uses microphones connected to the system or any telephone in the home, to carry out the commands. It uses your existing PC or Home Server and the electrical wiring inside your home’s walls meaning that because there are no new cables needed, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to install.
Once you have it set up in your home, you can easily give it commands and begin controlling your home. All you have to do is simply pick up any phone in the home, press the # key, and speak a command.
If you’re out and about then you can still send commands to your home via text message, phone call or using the smartphone app. With the HAL system you can control a number of devices and even set schedules by telling HAL, “Every night at 6pm turn on the front door lights for five hours”.
The Home Automated Living (HAL) system has the capabilities to turn on/off lights, turn on/off appliances, control the thermostat, play voicemails and even lock doors.
There are 9 variations of the HAL systems each with more added features than the other. With the HAL deluxe you can set up lighting scenes and link them with other devices with in the house, for example you can programme HAL so that when you say the command “It’s time for a movie” you can get the lights dimmed and have the popcorn machine begin popping your popcorn.
Apple Homekit and Siri
While Siri has been part of our lives for a while now (for apple users) and is a great assistant to get all your need-to-know information and although it’s been a long time coming, Apple have now finally introduced their homekit powered with Siri to control all your smart devices at the push of a button or the sound of a “Hey Siri”.
Launching with iOS 10, Apple’s dedicated Home app – which is the interface to HomeKit – will, for the first time, allow you to automate your home with over 100 different compatible devices – ranging from smart connected plugs to window blinds that can be closed by using your voice.
Homekit lets you use Siri’s voice commands to control it and the built in iPhone, iPad and mac app. While the list of compatible devices isn’t huge, it does contain some of the big names in the business, including but not limited to Phillips, Lutron, and Nanoleaf. Even with limited brands compatible, the Apple HomeKit has a huge range of compatible home items such as lamps, plugs, windows, heating, lighting, ceiling fans, smoke alarms, locks and much more.
One of the biggest advantages of having the HomeKit is that there’s no need to buy any expensive device to control all the smart home devices and receive voice commands.
The HomeKit system can be organised into each individual room, meaning you can swipe through the rooms to control each device or use the voice commands for specific room – for example “Hey Siri, turn the heating on in the master bedroom to 24 degrees”.
You can also set different scenes throughout your home, having “movie night” to mean dimmed lights, popcorn machine on and the master TV set to netflix. Scenes are easy to create and Apple gives you four default offerings to get you started, including “Good Night” (that could be set to turn everything off) or “I’m Leaving” (which could also be set to do the same as you walk out the door).
The real power, though, comes in creating your own custom scenes with your own array of accessories.
The sonos play:1 is a fantastic wireless speaker. It can stream your entire music library as well as connect to a number of streaming services, including Prime Music, all controlled by an app on your smartphone.
With Sonos’s experience in making speakers, it’s a safe bet that the Play:1 will have a sound like no other. This is perfect for those want a wireless speaker – but aren’t after a device to control their home.
The Amazon Tap is the middle child in the Amazon smart speaker collection. Standing at 6.2 inches tall the Tap boasts a 7 piece speaker array – similar to that of the Amazon Echo.
A smaller, more portable and affordable version of the Echo, the Tap comes with full access to Alexa. Unlike the Echo, the Amazon Tap is wireless and must be set into the included cradle in order to charge. Amazon says it’ll stream up to 9 hours of audio on a full charge, or last up to three weeks in standby mode. However where the Tap differs from other Amazon devices is that this device isn’t always listening and you can’t call out “Alexa” instead you need to press the microphone button on the front.
Other than that, it can do all the same tricks as Echo (so long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi).
Amazon Echo Dot
If the Amazon Echo is the device you want at a price that’s a little more affordable, then the Echo Dot is certainly the device for you.
A much more affordable and compact version of Echo, the difference between Echo and Echo Dot is the fact that the Echo Dot does not feature the high-quality speakers and instead packs basic speakers, however they do work just fine to listen to Alexa.
The Echo Dot can playback music, add to an Amazon shopping list, control 3rd party apps and so much more. As with the Amazon Echo the Dot responds to a simple “Hey Alexa” however one feature that the Dot holds that the Echo does not is the option to connect 3rd party speakers. To get the full experience of the Amazon Echo Dot, it may be worth signing up for Amazon prime, this enables access to Amazon Music and other services through the voice controlled assistant Alexa.
2016 was largely considered to be the year of the smarthome and wireless speakers, but 2017 is shaping up to see an even bigger rise in the trend — and the way we interact with our homes will truly start to change. The smart devices above are great examples of the new ways in which we’ll start to take control of our devices and homes in new ways this year.
What are your favorite smarthome controllers? Do you like the idea of using voice-activated control, or are you worried about privacy concerns? Share your thoughts in the comments.