Over the past six months voice control has made a major splash with home automation manufacturers integrating Amazon’s voice control application, Alexa, with their devices. But not everyone thinks the future of communicating with the Internet of Things will be via voice.
For example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, recently designed Jarvis, his own voice-powered AI home automation, and discovered he preferred communicating by text because, he wrote, “mostly it feels less disturbing to people around me”
Text Messaging for Home Control
Unified Inbox, a Singapore based firm which offers a service that can handle ordinary text messages and pass them on to appliances, has become a major player in creating a platform that appliance makers use. Toby Ruckert, CEO of Unified Inbox, recently commented on why more than half of the world’s smart appliance manufacturers have signed up with the service.
“With your home added to the contacts list on, say, WhatsApp, a quick text message can start the espresso machine; turn on the vacuum cleaner at 5pm; or preheat the oven to 200 degrees at 6.30pm.”
“Think of it as a universal translator between the languages that machines speak… and us humans,” said Mr Toby Ruckert.
The company is just a small player, funded by private investors, but he said its technology is patent-backed, has been several years in the making, and has customers that include half of the world’s smart appliance makers, such as Bosch .
How It Works
Unified Inbox connects the devices on behalf of the manufacturer, while the consumer can add their appliance by messaging its serial number to a special user account or phone number. It so far supports more than 20 of the most popular messaging apps, as well as SMS, and controls appliances from ovens to kettles. Other home appliances being tested include locks, garage openers, window blinds, toasters and garden sprinklers, said Mr Ruckert.
IBM is pairing its Watson AI supercomputer with Unified Inbox to better understand user messages. They will be demonstrating the service working with a Samsung Robot Cleaner later on this week.
There is another reason, Mr Ruckert said, why more than half of the world’s smart appliance manufacturers have signed up. They are worried the big tech firms’ one-appliance-controls-all approach will relegate them to commodity players, connecting to Alexa or another dominant platform, or being cast aside if Amazon moves into making its own household appliances.
A spokesman for Bosch said no single company can knit the Internet of Things together, so “there is a need to collaborate and establish ecosystems”, such as working with Unified Inbox.
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