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Speak up! Smart home technology finds its voice in 2018


With the annual Consumer and Electronics Show (CES) having recently taken place in Las Vegas, now is a good time to assess which technology is set to make an impact in the property world this year and beyond.

Voice activation truly arrived at CES this year, with multiple brands showcasing smart home appliances embedded with voice-controlled virtual assistants. With this meet estimating that 50% of all searches will be voice searches within 3 years, voice as an interface is very much here to stay.

At this year’s CES it was voice activated everything. The likes of Alexa (still by far the biggest), Google Assistant (closing the gap on Alexa) and Samsung Bixby are leading home devices into a new seamless era, as consumers increasingly ask appliances for what they need.

The future is looking very bright for the Internet of Things (IOT) / Home technology category as a whole. The industry is growing at an astonishing rate and is expected to be worth US$138bn by 2023.

However, with so many brands, products, software operating in this space it’s very much about how you integrate everything. You may have a Nest thermostat, a Samsung fridge, Sonos music system and Alexa but it’s imperative they all talk to each other.

“The goal is seamless integration,” explains Samsung refrigerator director Claudia Santos. Samsung has integrated its home-grown assistant Bixby into its 2018 smart TVs and updated Family Hub smart fridge, enabling consumers to control home functions via voice command from a single appliance to maximise efficiency and convenience.

But what’s driving this insatiable appetite and interest?

I think it’s because we have an increasing need for flexibility, convenience, safety and security in our lives. There’s a home security boom underway with the market projected to be worth $47bn globally by 2020.  New products strive to offer consumers more home privacy and protection – from AI security systems and caregiving robots, to digital devices that monitor water leaks and air quality.

Brands at CES were on a mission to reduce crime by offering a comprehensive range of smart home-security products. From locks with biometric recognition to connected safes, the latest tech-advanced security devices enable consumers to protect and monitor their homes from anywhere in real time.

It’s estimated that over 7.5 million households in the US are planning on buying a home security system in the next 12 months. This very much echoed our own research data which highlighted the importance of security to owners and residents, particularly in those living in urban areas. This is as important for the rental market as it is for home owners.

This extends beyond the home as illustrated with Streety, a new app that enables neighbours to monitor their area using video footage from security cameras located up to 300 yards from a user’s home. The network will be an opt-in system, with users having to request access to each camera they wish to view. The app also has a facility for residents to post questions for other locals to address (one which could affect planning applications).

According to the brand, this element of community interaction is one of the ultimate goals of the service. In a press release Vivint claimed that it wants consumers to ‘say goodbye to neighbourhoods comprising siloed homes that residents enter and exit through their garages with little interaction’.

While increased digital connectivity has made it easier for consumers to connect with disparate groups, it has thus far proved less successful at – and often been detrimental to – integrating them with those in their immediate vicinity. It would be great if this happened as if technology brings people together and makes them feel safer it has to be a good thing.

Several brands presented voice assistant-enabled appliances that aimed to turn the heart of the home, the kitchen, into a connected hub.

Haier brand GE Appliances showcased its kitchen ventilation hood featuring a 27-inch screen, which integrates the control of all other Haier appliances in the home. For instance, users can see who is at the door through Haier’s smart doorbell or tell the dryer to turn on. It also has recipe integration, using recipe providers Drop and Innit, which can display the various steps of the recipes as you cook.


About James Fenner

James Fenner

James Fenner is founder and MD of Silk Road www.wearesilkroad.com James set up Silk Road four years ago to shake up the property marketing landscape. Previously James’s only property experience was running the marketing for the highly successful Fitzroy Place scheme. In the fifteen years prior to this he’d worked with brands such as: Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Citibank, Schweppes, Southern Comfort, Habitat, Audi, Volkswagen, Rio Tinto and Unilever. He brings knowledge of how other sectors work to property, endeavouring to haul it into the twenty first century.

Articles by James Fenner

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