Race for the Smart Home Space: Bringing voice calls to the home

Companies such as Google and Amazon are looking at to transform phone calls with the integration of a voice-calling feature to the speakers of its smart home system.

Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are both assessing the market and exploring how they can revolutionise communication for homeowners. Voice control is nothing new for smart home systems; however, these products have only ever been marketed as personal assistants that enable hands-free control of devices.

Reports have claimed that Amazon has been developing a phone feature for the Echo, which means Alexa will be used to make and take calls. Google already has an online telecommunication platform, Google Voice, which could be used in Google Home. The Google Assistant could help turn the Home device into a phone service.

If the technology is successfully integrated into the smart gadgets, users can make or answer a call with a simple voice command. Reports have claimed that both Google and Amazon may introduce the technology into their devices by the end of this year but it is yet to be confirmed.

Integrating these hubs with phone call capability will not only shift the smart home experience but it will also impact mobile as well. The smartphone killed the landline but could smart home speakers replace the smartphone?

As company strategies are still unclear, it looks as though there are two options. Either existing smartphone devices are connected to the smart home speakers allowing users to access existing contacts, call records and favourites, or each smart home device is assigned a unique phone number.

Implications:
• The feature will make speakers a central part of the smart home
• Increase the length of smartphone upgrades and limit their use to outside of the home

Barriers to overcome:
• Integration with telephone companies – if home hub systems are assigned a unique phone number this would require collaboration with telecommunications companies
• Constant speaker setting – to allow calling capability the smart system would always have to be on a loud speaker setting which could potentially be inconvenient for users
• Legal implications – law enforcement can currently monitor and collect phone call information if they have a warrant. However, how can you determine if a user is making a phone call or simply speaking to the system for commands?

There is still a few implications to consider when developing this feature, but it could potentially rocket the smart home into the mainstream if successful.

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