Has The Age of George Jetson IoT Time Come? Alex Was the Star of CES

Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is the software that allows owners to control compatible devices with their voice. From the various  reports it was estimated there were 700–1,100 Alexa-controllable products at CES. And the Amazon / Alexa logo was everywhere at CES.

Is the Age of George Jetson here? In a smart home, everything from the the HVAC to the TV to window shades can be controlled. However it’s not easy to really have a whole house of Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled devices. Why? Many of the IoT-enabled devices don’t talk to other devices if they are made by different manufacturers. Opps! The IoT world awaits THE killer app, like Apple Homekit or Google Home. We are still waiting for them to provide all encompassing, unified smart “home.”

The Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker controlled with your voice. It connects to the Alexa Voice Service to provide information, news, play music, report on sports scores, deliver weather reports… The uses for AVS and Alexa are limited only by your imagination.

When something is connected to Alexa, the device instantly becomes pseudo-interoperable. Interoperable technology is not an evolutionarily stable strategy for most IoT manufacturers. Interoperability is the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged to do something.

What CES showed us is that voice control seems to be the unifying app for IoT. And Alexa is the biggest name in voice control. Smart devices are generally controlled with apps. If there is an app to control the smart device, the app allows AVS to directly control the smart device. So you could say, “Alexa, tell Crestron I’d like to turn the lights on in the bedroom” (for your Crestron) or “Alexa, I would like to turn the heat on the downstairs thermostat to 70 degrees” (for your Iris Smart Home System). It’s easy to see the value of voice control in so many ordinary situations. What’s interesting about AVS is that even though Crestron and Iris have nothing to do with one another, you can control them both with your voice.

Alexa has finely tuned automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) engines that recognize and respond to voice requests instantly. Alexa is always getting smarter with new capabilities and services through machine learning, regular API updates, feature launches, and custom skills from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK.) The AVS API  is a programming language agnostic service that makes it easy to integrate Alexa into your devices, services, and applications. And it’s free.

And you can create meaningful user experiences for an endless variety of use cases with Alexa Voice Service (AVS); Amazon’s intelligent voice recognition and natural language understanding service. AVS includes a full range of features, including smart home control, streaming music content, news, timers… and can be added to any connected device that has a microphone and speaker.

But while Alexa has a head start, Google Home, an Echo competitor, is very likely to quickly catch up. Google Home though, works with a completely different set of protocols and has different “awake” words. These are command words that make it pay attention and carry out the request. It seems that we may need to learn to speak to different systems in different ways – perhaps we’ll need lessons in Alexa speak and Google speak as well as and Siri and Cortana speak!

So is the Age of George Jetson here yet? Sort of. What will be interesting is to see if there is a start-up that will pull all of this together so that us regular humans don’t need to become AI experts to connect and use the technology.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering customer-facing applications



#IOT CES 2016: Expect Everything That Can Be Connected Will Be Connected

CES: The Connected Internet of Things Dominates: Analysts predict by 2019 that only 49 percent of data in the cloud will be from PCs, and the biggest drivers of the shift will be smartphones and IoT.  They also expect the Industrial Internet (another euphemism for the Internet of Things) to generate over 500 zettabytes in 2019 — 49 times current cloud traffic. Big data? More like huge, vast, gigantic, massive, colossal, and maybe even titanic amounts of data. So yes, lot’s of it and the key is how to use it to make a customer experience – whether B2C or B2B – better. But will all that data help? It could — if we learn how to harness it. And we help translate what the data scientist know so well to the business people that need to use it to make better customer experiences in marketing, sales and customer service. I just hope things don’t get lost in translation.

My POV on #IOT? I’m not really that interested in the machine to machine part of #IOT. It’s not really my area of expertise how machines talk to machines. I am however, very interested in the experiences that are created when “things” get connected to other “things.” Will these connected machines make better experiences or will they just make more data? What does history tell us about our use of technology?

Our Connection to Tools and Data, Prehistoric and Historic: Our connection to tools, think stone spears and our partnerships with tools predates history. History is the study of the past using written records. Anything prior to the first written accounts of history is termed prehistory (meaning “before history”), including earlier technologies and tools. About 2.5 million years before writing was developed, technology began with the earliest of humans using stone tools to start fires, hunt, cut food, and bury their dead. These were basic materials and resulted in the first tools or technology.

If you don’t already know this, my engineering degrees are in material science and metallurgy. Why mention this you ask? Well because in archaeology and physical anthropology, human prehistory is divided into three consecutive time periods, each Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.30.49 AMnamed after the main material used in its respective tool-making technologies: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age — technology then was really about the materials humans could develop into tools. (Actually it still is – only now it’s about Silicon-based or other materials made into chips that run our software and hardware or used to make sensors, devices and the internet – that give us the ability to connect everything to everything and generate all that data.) The figure below from Pitkochart does a nice job of showing how “tools” evolved over time…

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.31.52 AMAnd so the point is that what we see, as we traverse history is, that those  man/machine partnerships have and are being taken to a new level.  Today, for example service partnerships like Google and Apple Maps and WAZE help us to find our way. And in the future, those partnerships will be with self-driving cars, more advanced robots for manufacturing, anthropomorphic robots for companionship and game-play and much more helpful versions for housekeeping and other errands. At CES we’ll see semi-autonomous tools such as lane assist, self-parking and adaptive cruise control. And perhaps by 2020 the big car makers will have fully autonomous vehicles ready to go.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.39.43 AM

Sensors, Sensors, Sensors. And to power all of this? In part, sensors. A sensor is an object used to detect events or changes in its environment, which then provides a corresponding output. Depending on the type of sensor, it could have a electrical or optical signals. So to get the data, you need a sensor. If something can accommodate a sensor, it will have a sensor.  If the sensor can be computerize it, it will be computerized.  If the sensor would benefit from two-way communication, you’ll bet that will be something that will be included in its capabilities. These connections may also include dedicated systems for connected things with proprietary or standardized RFID, active RFID, real-time locations systems, mesh sensor networks, etc… But it will also be smart objects that will sense and communicate over the internet within human interaction. And it will also include internet-enabled personal electronics like cell phones, tablets and computers. The figure below from IDTechEx does a great job of breaking this down.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.40.52 AM

So in short, CES 2016 is about everything that can be connected will be connected. It is about the Internet of Things #IOT connected. I just hope that we go that one step further, and not just rest on the ability to connect things to things, but we complete the circle and we clearly demonstrate the business value and the value to creating better customer experiences.

Creating an experience just because we can is not enough. Though I know we sometimes have to start there to develop the technology to get it to a place where it will benefit people and business. I just hope we don’t get lost in the mounds of data and forget what we were really aiming to do… which is to make better customer experiences… Because at the end of the day, the last variable for companies to compete on? Not product, not price, but experience. Customer experience is the deciding factor and the sooner executives really grasp the value of this, the sooner they will take the lead in their industry. And if not, as in Ray Wang’s book, Disrupting Digital Business, they will be become a statistic: since the year 2000, 50% of the Fortune 500 companies have been acquired, merged or gone completely out of business. It’s time to really understand why. The why? Customer experience. Period.


VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Marketing, Sales and Customer Service and All things Connected to make better Customer Experiences through #IOT