Why Siri from Apple is my favorite voice assistant for the smart home

Cupertino, October 4, 2021

I use a fairly simple method to determine which artificial smart voice assistant is best for controlling my smart home: which one do I swear at least? Apple's Siri, who turns 10 today, wins hands down. This has little to do with the fact that he rarely throws me unnecessary information when he didn't understand what I was asking for (* cough * Google) and certainly because he never asks me if I want to buy something (you know who you are). But mainly due to the fact that as a smart home controller, Siri is very fast.

Siri, you say? The same Siri whose delay is legendary in the iPhone's birthplace? Yes this is it. Bring Siri into your home, put the power of an Apple TV 4K or HomePod (maxi or mini) behind it as a HomeKit hub, and the smart character with which AI does what you order will cover you.

A simple "Hey Siri, good night" turns off all the smart lights in the house, locks the front and back doors, closes the garage door, interrupts any music playback, lowers the shadows and sets the thermostat to my sleep temperature in about 6 seconds, give or take.

A quick "Hey Siri, the lights on", aimed at the kitchen, HomePod Mini only turns on those lights in under a second. As a bonus, he never accidentally lit the whole house at 5 o'clock in the morning, as other vocal assistants did (I already mentioned the swearing, didn't I?)

A "Good morning" whispered in the Apple Watch as you press the digital crown, and my house comes back to life easily; I just turn on the lights I need to get ready without waking up my partner and playing NPR quietly in the Mini kitchen, all before I take him out of the bedroom.

Siri may not have some of the great qualities found in competing smart speakers. It's not the smartest AI - it goes to Google Assistant with its power backend. Not the most useful - going to Alexa with its frequent (and often unsolicited) offers of assistance. But when all you want to do is turn on the lights and instead your AI launches into a monologue about who invented the light switch, then you say to yourself, "I wish my smart home controller was a little worse ”.

While the dream of a smart home is one fueled by artificial intelligence that uses context to anticipate our every need, we are far from that reality. Today, all you really need from intelligent voice control at home are listening and comprehension skills - we're talking about first grade, not master's.

To help, voice control in the smart home just needs to be easier and less obscene than taking out a phone and opening an app and more convenient than going to turn a switch. It's a challenge and one that Apple is closest to conquering - at least in my home.

Yes, fart jokes are fun and it's great to have knowledge of the world just a few words away - Siri doesn't know any of these things. But Siri hears me 100 percent of the time, even when the nearest speaker is on the other side of the room, understands my smart home requests 95 percent of the time, and limits its stuttering to the bare minimum - "On it" or " Coming immediately. " These are qualities I admire in a smart home controller.

However, I want Siri to be more promiscuous. There are quite a number of gadgets and devices in my smart home that normally can't talk to Siri. This means that I occasionally find a member of my household who is unhappily sitting in the middle of the room saying, “Hey, Alexa. Hi Siri. Hi Google. Hey, can anyone hear me ?? ”

It was also not a simple or cheap process to set up my smart home partially powered by Siri. (The nature of my work means that I am contractually obliged to lead all four intelligent voice assistants simultaneously - yes, I have Bixby here as well). Searching for Siri-compatible devices generally means choosing the "best price" filter from the search results and closing your eyes when you press the buy button. A few cheaper deals launched in the last year from Aqara and Meross have made it a little easier on the wallet, but there are still a number of categories that are completely missing or sparsely populated - such as robotic vacuum cleaners, smart smoke alarms, and home security systems.

Matter's future promise can solve this interoperability conundrum, which, to be fair, is not just Apple's problem. But in the meantime, I've found that Siri shortcuts provide a useful way to address some of these limitations. Tailwind, my favorite garage door controller, hasn't had support for HomeKit in a long time. It's happening now, but in the meantime he offered a shortcut to schedule in my order for Siri to open and close the door. Same deal with my ceiling fans. Bond Bridge (an RF device that can communicate with a ceiling fan remote control, not a scene from No Time to Die) I can use Siri on my iPhone or Apple Watch to trigger shortcuts to control my fans who are not smart, certainly not compatible with HomeKit.

The disadvantage of shortcuts, however, is that they only work on an iPhone or Apple Watch, and the intelligent control of the house must be easily accessible to everyone in the house, regardless of whether or not they bought the Apple ecosystem. Until the advent of the HomePod Mini, the price for dressing a modest-sized house with Siri access on demand was prohibitive, and even the $ 99 per room of the HomePod Mini is still steep.

In honor of Siri's tenth birthday, it appears that AI is inviting some friends to the party. A new accessory program with Siri function allows non-Apple gadgets with speakers and microphones to relay requests to a HomePod. From now on, Ecobee SmartThermostat is the only manufacturer that has committed to this. (Since Amazon just blocked them with its new smart thermostat, I wouldn't blame Ecobee for completely evacuating Alexa.) With more ways to talk to Siri at home and more products that can be controlled by the smart assistant , I hope my jar of oath will gather spider webs by Christmas.

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