Don’t be surprised if in the coming year you see people starting to talk to their lights — telling them to adjust the thermostat, order dinner and even read the latest headlines.
That Jetsons-like future is coming courtesy of a new GE lamp that has Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service—the company’s voice-controlled digital assistant that can answer questions, play music, and perform many other tasks—embedded directly within it. This is the first time AVS will live inside a lighting product without the support of a hub, a smart phone or even a physical Amazon Echo unit — the cylindrical smart speaker that millions of people are now using to get information and control electronics around their homes. Jeff Patton, general manager for connected home products at GE Lighting, points out that putting Alexa’s functions into a lamp, instead of a standalone cylinder, makes the device, well, shine. “In terms of your sense of décor, this can be more integrated in your lifestyle,” he says.While there are plenty of smart home apps for security, fire alarms, lights and heat, controlling those devices can feel somewhat fragmented, Patton says. “I really hated the fact that when I looked at my phone, I’d see 15 separate apps for things in my house,” he said.
Smart-home technology is already being used by 21 percent of all U.S. households, and another 36 percent are viable future customers, according to an analysis by Strategy Analytics. That market is expected to triple in the next few years as the technology gets simpler. “From turning appliances on and off to creating grocery lists or requesting a ride, Alexa gives these customers freedom that they didn’t have before,” says Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home.
Patton says that “this is just the beginning of what can be possible in the smart home space.” He says that his business, GE Lighting, “is building a suite of connected products designed to upgrade what you can do at home, whether that’s being more secure, having more fun or just accomplishing more with you time. Our goal is really about unleashing the ultimate living experience, and this is a giant leap forward.”