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5 Smart Home Devices That Won’t Break The Bank

Smart home technology is currently taking over the world. When Apple initially launched AI assistant Siri for the iPhone, they had no idea they’d be creating one of the first smart technologies that would impact the future of how we interact with all of our devices. Now, we can use these voice-interactive assistants to turn on the lights, lock our cars when we’re miles away, and answer practically any question one could have, all without having to get up from the couch. 

There’s a whole multitude of smart home devices on the market that are all unique in their own way. However, because of how advanced the technology is, they tend to be priced on the expensive side, but one device can assist the average individual on dozens of aspects of their lives. So which devices would best fit your lifestyle without completely breaking the bank?

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Ring Video Doorbell: About one third of all Americans have had packages stolen from their porches at least once in their lifetime. As online shopping continues to outgrow the traditional retail industry, it’s only a matter of time before it completely takes over, and will that come an increase in these crimes. For this reason, among others, more people are investing in the Ring Video Doorbell. Ring is powered by Amazon’s Alexa and allows its users to see, hear, and speak through their doorbells through any smart device with an Alexa app on it (which is free in any app store). 

The doorbell itself has risen in popularity because it provides a video feed that never stops recording. Users can get a livestream of their front door at any given time, as well as record videos. The device itself has already been extremely beneficial at catching porch thieves in the act, and will likely continue to ride in popularity for this reason. 

Google Home Smart Speaker: While Amazon’s Alexa may be the dominant voice for AI assisted technology, Google Home has become its biggest competitor. This is likely because the price point for Google Home Smart Speakers, and their other devices in their line of smart devices, are relatively cheaper than any other brand on the market. Additionally, these speakers obviously have the power of Google, one of the world’s largest online sources for information, within them, so users can ask practically any question to their device and expect a clear answer. 

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Roku Streaming Stick+: Streaming services for music, television, and movies has become a staple in the world of in-home entertainment. With so many platforms out there, many are turning to buy smart TV’s that have app store capabilities so that they can keep up with all of their profiles (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.). However, spending hundreds on a brand new television may be too large of an investment for some, so instead, consider the Roku Streaming Stick+. You simply plug the device into your  existing television’s HDMI port, log into your home’s WiFi network, and you’ll automatically have access to any and all online content that you could ever dream of. The best part? It only costs about $50 with shipping. 

Nest Learning Thermostat: This device is the most expensive on the list, coming in at about $210, however, it’s focus on sustainability and savings will make it worth it in the long run in terms of your heating/electric bills. This is a “smart device” because it’s designed to learn about your specific lifestyle. It will automatically adjust the temperature of your home in moments where you may not need the heat to be on; such as when you go to work or on vacation. Reports claim that on average the Nest Learning Thermostat saves the average individual about $150 a year on their heating and cooling bills.  

Gosund Smart Plug: When it comes to our smart devices being able to work with other, normal electrical devices in our home, such as lamps, typically you need to buy smart plugs that can specifically work with your device exclusively; such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home. However, Gosund Smart Plug’s are universal, in the sense that they are compatible with either Amazon Alexa or Google Home’s voice integration. If you don’t have either, Gosund has it’s own companion app that you can download onto any smart phone and control whatever device you plug into the Gosund’s from your phone. A four pack of these plugs costs $30.

Young Woman Using AI Device

How AI Will Shape Life in the Home

Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology and a healthy global economy in which companies compete to develop the most impressive and compelling consumer products, the future of life in the home is shaping up to be characterized by artificial intelligence. Google, for instance, has shifted its business to focus on so-called “ambient computing” technology, which aims to integrate itself seamlessly into the home, assisting customers without intruding into their lives. The Google Home line of products, for instance, works by listening for the phrase “OK Google” or “Hey Google,” which prompts it to respond to verbal commands using natural language processing. Other companies, like Amazon and Apple, have developed products that work along the same lines, with the goal of becoming an essential part of people’s lives without making their presence obvious or intrusive. As the trend of integrating AI into the home continues, other manufacturers are likely to develop appliances that use technology to optimize the efficiency of life in the home.

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Take, for example, LG, which is working on technology to improve the oftentimes-difficult experience of installing new appliances like washing machines and dryers, as well as technology that improves the customer service experience when consumers run into issues with the company’s products. So-called “smart appliances” work by integrating artificial intelligence deeply into all aspects of the appliances, helping users install appliances, detecting and communicating hardware errors, and even providing customer service using chatbots which are programmed to understand and respond to common consumer queries. LG’s latest iteration of washing machines and dryers connect wirelessly to customers’ smartphones using their proprietary ThinQ mobile app, which notifies users when the installation of appliances is completed and also provides users with information about the functioning of their devices as time goes on.

LG’s newest washing machine and dryer, called the LG TwinWash and ThinQ Dryer, include a number of sensors and artificial intelligence programs to streamline and improve the laundry experience. The TwinWash washing machine, for instance, includes voice recognition technology to allow users to operate the machine in a natural way without using buttons, and the washing machine can even give users verbal laundry advice depending on the types of stains on clothing. The machines also intelligently discern the softness of laundry in order to minimize fabric damage and improve washing quality. Additionally, when these appliances are released to the general public, users will be able to receive updates via their smartphones notifying them of problems with the devices that need to be addressed as well as reminders for scheduled maintenance in order to extend the life of the products and, in theory, reduce overall costs.

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The appliances that work with LG’s ThinQ app are not limited to washers and dryers, but include everything from refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, smart TVs, and more. LG’s InstaView smart refrigerator introduces a number of features that set it apart from today’s standard refrigerators, with the aim of saving energy and improving food freshness, among other features. The InstaView refrigerator is packed with a number of features that were once considered squarely in the realm of science fiction; for instance, the fridge includes a camera that films the inside of the refrigerator when the door is closed, which users can view on the device’s LCD touchscreen or remotely using the ThinQ app on their smartphones. Users of the InstaView refrigerator can also program the appliance to remind them when their food expires, and the device even includes Amazon Alexa, a popular voice assistant that can play music, check the weather, and even help users shop for groceries. The fridge also alerts users when the door is left open, produces large amounts of ice for parties or other occasions, and can enter a low-power mode that keeps food fresh when the user goes on vacation.

Clearly, such advanced home appliance technology is not for everyone, and consumers may reasonably question the usefulness of many of these products’ features. When LG’s line of smart appliances releases in the United States, they are likely to be very expensive, limiting their appeal to a small audience of consumers. However, if history is any indication, the technology that powers these appliances is likely to grow more sophisticated and cheaper with time, and it may just be a matter of time before smart appliances become a commonplace and even mundane sight in the home.

Amazon App

Amazon Alexa To Be Integrated In New Smart Glasses, Earbuds, And Rings

Amazon hosted a huge hardware/media event this week where they announced a whole bundle of new products. Is it any surprise that the star of the show was a lovely lady named Alexa?

The Amazon Echo family grew quite a bit this week as the companies attempt to give you the most access to its smart AI technology also grows. The company’s goal is to get as many devices in the home as possible, essentially turning everything into an Amazon smart home. 

Amazon first announced updates to it’s larger speaker collections releasing the Echo Speaker Generation 3, and the brand new Echo Studio, which is a large speaker meant to compete with brands like Sonos and Apple’s now popular HomePod. This is meant to be the company’s first ever “high end” speaker delivering 3D audio! A new feature in modern speaker technology that is meant to have music fill a room in the same way a stadium distributes noise during a concert. With the Echo Studio you’ll be able to ask Alexa to play all of your favorite songs in 3D audio, bringing the concert experience to your living room. The Echo Studio will be released November 3rd, but is currently available for pre-order and retails for $200.

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The Echo Speaker Generation 3 may not offer the same 3D audio technology, but does promise to deliver improved crystal clear audio thanks to a collaboration between Amazon and Dolby. If you’re looking for a large quality speaker but don’t want to break the bank as much, this could be the option for you. The Echo Speaker Generation 3 is also currently available to pre-order, and will begin shipping out October 16th for $100. 

The Echo Show also got a fresh new upgrade with a much larger eight inch screen compared to last generations five inch display. The Show retails for $130, and is currently available for pre-order to be shipped out on November 21st. Amazon also announced two cheaper Echo devices known as the Echo Glow, which can connect to any Alexa enabled device and can be set to change colors, set alarms, play music and strobe to the beat, and set timers. The Glow retails for $30 and will be shipped out on the 20th. Echo Flex is a small white box that you plug directly into a wall socket and boom! You have a mini Echo speaker directly plugged into an outlet. The speaker retails for $30, so the quality probably won’t compare to the new Amazon Studio’s 3D sound, but your wallet will surely thank you.

The Echo Dot got a make over for its third generation and is now known as the Echo Dot Clock, commemorating the digital time display on the speaker. The display can also be set to show alarms, timers and the temperature. This upgrade will be available on October 16th, and for pre-order, and retails for $60.

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All new Amazon Ring devices were also announced this week. Ring devices are all Alexa enabled, of course, and are specifically meant for home security purposes. Many updates were added to their security camera systems such as the Ring Stick Up Cam, which features images captured in 1080p to any of your house devices, which now retails at $100, which is much cheaper than last years model. The Ring Stick Up Elite Cam also got an upgrade with faster Ethernet processing speeds, and better quality cameras. The Elite will retail for $200, both will be available on October 23rd, but again are available for pre-order.

Amazon also announced it’s newest WiFi innovation, the Echo Eero. For $100 and currently available to pre-order, the Eero devices work on a mesh system. Mesh WiFi systems are becoming highly popularized, as they ensure that you’re WiFi router is sending signals to every room in the home. You can buy a bundle of 3 for $250 as well to ensure the fastest internet speeds possible. The Eero devices are also Alexa capable.

In an even larger attempt to get into every part of your home, Amazon has announced Alexa powered ovens, to go with your Alexa microwaves of course. While an Alexa oven doesn’t mean you’ll be able to speak to your oven like any other Echo device, it does connect to any other Echo device in the home, so you’re able to check on meals, preheat, set timers, etc. all without having to get up. These new smart kitchen appliances will be available on November 14th, but once again, of course you can pre-order.

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Finally, and arguably more significantly, Amazon released a new line of personal accessories that are all Alexa enabled. First, the long awaited Echo wireless earbuds have been announced. The tech community was waiting to see if Amazon would release a competitor to Apple’s popular Airpods, as normally Amazon releases similar technology to Apple but at a more desirable price point. The earbuds promise high end sound quality and combined Bose noise-cancelling technology as well. They also included an “ambient sound” mode, that would allow a user to be more aware of their surroundings. The earbuds should last for five hours on a single charge, and the case can charge them up to three times fully. They will cost $130 and are available to pre-order and ship out October 30th.

Amazon is also starting a new exclusive program known as the “Day 1 Edition” pilot program. The program is available only by invitation and if you want any shot at trying the next two devices you’ll need to get your hands on one. Luckily, you can apply on Amazon’s website, or by clicking here.

The first product being offered to this exclusive program are Amazon’s new smart glasses! No these won’t work like Virtual Reality video games, there are no holograms or displays on the lenses, which is the main reason they’re being advertised as having an all day battery life.

Amazon said in a statement that “They basically work like an audio smartwatch, reading your notifications out loud and allowing you to ask Alexa questions. They even support optional access to the Google Assistant. But the microphones can also be turned off when you want some extra privacy.”

The glasses will retail for $180 for those lucky enough to get into the Day 1 Edition program. Those individuals will also have access to the new Echo Loop! A new Amazon ring accessory, that also essentially works like a smart watch, but smaller! The $130 accessory has an action button that you press and can use to hear the weather, reminders, information regarding reservations, and basically anything else you would ask Alexa to do, you can even make short phone calls. Overall, Amazon has showed that they’re not going anywhere, and are ready for you to meet Alexa in her most advanced form yet!

Amazon Alexa

Amazon Continues To Build Market In India By Teaching Alexa Hindi

Amazon and Jeff Bezos alike have been working since 2014 to expand their market in India. The country has over half a billion potential internet users that Amazon has already started infiltrating. Just recently the company opened its largest office headquarters in Hyderabad, India’s business district. The building made headlines for its massive size, taking up 9 acres of land, and for the job market expansion it’s bringing in.  

Now, Amazon has taken another step to expand its Indian market by finalizing the technology to get their Amazon Alexa speakers to speak Hindi. The devices can now speak and understand the language which is spoken by about 530 million individuals living in India, according to its 2018 census. In addition to every Amazon Alexa device, some second party speakers that are powered by Alexa voice-assist will also be able to speak the language, as well as “Hinglish” which is a hybrid of both Hindi and English. Hinglish is said to be spoken widely across the country. 

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Amazon’s Newest Headquarters In Hyderabad, India

Experts with Amazon have been working with multiple tech developers in India in order to gain the technology to teach the Alexa hardware how to speak the complex language. Specifically the company has been focusing on working with Hindi voice app developers for around two months, where they’ve conducted workshops to “teach” the devices how to “speak” new languages. 

Amazon is already aware of the 600 million internet users in the country, they’re already clearly making multiple business decisions to appease to those current users. However, their biggest goal is to expand their market to reach the additional 700 million individuals in the country who have never even been on the internet. Language is the overlying code that needs to be cracked, India has citizens that speak over twenty languages in a hundred different dialects. Creating technology that can accommodate to any version of any language is what tech developers are working on globally, especially in Asia. 

The Asian Internet market is the most lucrative due to the densely saturated populations within every country. However, the diversity in population means a multitude of languages, meaning technology is needed that can work with those languages, this is especially apparent in India. 

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A Few Of The Newest Amazon Alexa Powered Devices

“India is somewhat unique in the degree to which multilinguality is expressed. Diversity in India is expressed to an extent that one does not see anywhere else. It’s very resistant to standardization of anything.” Prem Natarajan, an Alexa vice president heading the effort to teach the voice assistant new languages, told CNN Business.

Amazon has already introduced a Hindi language setting on its mobile app, pushing itself ahead of the curve in India compared to other tech companies. According to CNN, by 2021 India will have three times the amount of people accessing the internet in their own specific language, compared to those in the country using English. 

Amazon has already invested up to $5 billion in India alone, a majority of which went to their new headquarters, all in a greater effort to continue to expand and grow their market in India. “India is important to us, and I think it’s fair to expect us to continue working towards demonstrating that sort of importance and maximizing utility to the Indian user base,” Natarajan said.