Microsoft’s Cortana Assistant Gains IFTTT Integration, Supports More Smart Home Products

Microsoft's Cortana Assistant Gains IFTTT Integration, Supports More Smart Home Products

In a bid to expand into the growing home automation market, Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana will now support more smart home devices and integrate with IFTTT – a free web-based platform that helps users connect their apps and services together, the company has announced.

Cortana now supports devices from ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, Honeywell Total Connect Comfort, LIFX, TP-Link Kasa and Geeni.

Cortana running on Windows 10 Operating System (OS), iPhone, Android and the Harman Kardon Invoke speakers, can be used to control these devices.

“Say ‘Hey Cortana, set the living room thermostat to 72 degrees’ to control your ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, or Honeywell Total Connect Comfort thermostat. With vivid colours from your LIFX Wi-Fi connected light bulbs, you can set the mood just right for movie night,” the company wrote in a blog post late on Friday.

To set up their connected home with the digital assistant, users need to open Cortana on Windows 10 or go to the Cortana app on their phone, click Notebook and then click Connected Home.

“From there, you can connect your favourite smart home accounts and control your devices from anywhere you use Cortana,” the post added..

The tech giant also announced Cortana’s support for IFTTT.

IFTTT (If This Then That) is both a website and a mobile app that was launched in 2010.

“Using IFTTT, you will be able to customise your experience by creating your own phrases to use with services on IFTTT. You can also use Applets on IFTTT with Cortana to trigger multiple actions with one phrase,” Microsoft said.

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Samsung Bixby 2.0 to Be Unveiled Next Year, Will Work on Multiple Devices in the Home

Samsung Bixby 2.0 to Be Unveiled Next Year, Will Work on Multiple Devices in the Home

South Korean technology major Samsung will introduce the second edition of its voice-powered digital assistant ‘Bixby’ next year that will work on multiple devices, including televisions and refrigerators, a top company official said Thursday.

This will help the global smartphone leader further strengthen its position against companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon that also have virtual assistants – Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, respectively.

“We would introduce Bixby 2.0 in 2018… it would be designed to be available on any and all devices,” Samsung Electronics V-P, Mobile Communications Business, Ji Soo Yi told reporters in Seoul.

He added that “this means having the intelligence of Bixby act as the control hub of device ecosystem, including mobile phones, TVs, refrigerators…”.

Bixby 2.0 would have “one work on one platform” command structure and would integrate all operating systems like Android and Samsung’s Tizen.

However, Yi did not divulge the month of the planned launch of the new version of the voice assistance software. Named after a bridge in California, US, Samsung had introduced Bixby in May this year globally on its premium smartphones like Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8.

Asked whether Samsung would extend Bixby to other Samsung phones, Yi said: “Yes, we would.” However, he did not share the models on which Bixby will be extended to.

“We are getting it ready to work with more languages,” he said, adding that “Hindi could probably be among the first five languages the company will have first”.

Samsung will also invite local linguistic experts to develop the local language command in the second phase.

“Self-sustainable ecosystem is essential because that is the only way to support users’ growing personal need,” Yi said.

India is a huge market for Samsung for mobile phones and consumer electronics.

The company has maintained its leadership position in the burgeoning and dynamic Indian smartphone market, commanding 24 percent share at the end of June 2017 quarter.

In the consumer durables segment, Samsung is a leading brand in TV panels, microwaves and frost-free refrigerators. It had recently launched an Internet of Things-enabled washing machine.

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SimpliSafe Home Security Service May Also Provide Small Business Solution

As the name implies, it is very easy to install the SimpliSafe security system and using it for your small business will save you lots of money.

Securing the place we live and work in used to be a task best left for professional, but like almost every other industry, digital technology is also democratizing security. SimpliSafe Home Security lets you install a wireless security system with all the bells and whistles, without needing an expert and paying an arm and a leg for it.

The SimpliSafe System

As the name implies, it is very easy to install the SimpliSafe system. It comes pre-programmed to work out of the box, and you won’t need to drill any holes or use wires, which saves hundreds on installation alone.

The Packages and Custom Build

You have the option of getting different business packages or you can custom build one for the perfect system. A business 5 piece package is as little as $229.96. You can get some that have as many as 13 components and you can even add more pieces to them for a total of up to 41.

If you decide to build your own, it starts with a core unit that includes the base station, wireless keypad and master keychain. From here, you can add all of the sensors, panic button, keypad, keychains, as well as the siren the company offers. This includes entry, motion, glass break, water, and freezer sensors.

SimpliSafe Security Monitoring Plans

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional security systems is the monthly fees of the contracts that lock you in with multi-year commitments. With SimpliSafe, you get 24/7 professional alarm monitoring for less than 50 cents per day without annual contracts, and you can cancel anytime.

Access

Once the system is installed, you will have access to your business with your smartphone no matter where you are. The base houses a SIM card for cellular connectivity, and it has a backup battery that works in the event of a power outage.

As the name implies, it is very easy to install the SimpliSafe security system and using it for your small business will save you lots of money.

Conclusion

The system is easy to set up, wireless, without a long term contract allowing you to cancel anytime. It has a 100 percent guarantee with paid shipping for return after 60 days. The company says that this gives customers complete control. What do you think?

Images: SimpliSafe

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Google Home First Impressions

Google Home First ImpressionsGoogle Home First Impressions
HIGHLIGHTS
The speakers are powerful when they coordinate with your other devices
Home can control Google’s Chromecast streaming TV devices
Home seems smarter than the Echo out of the gate
Google’s new smart speaker is at once a secretary, a librarian and a radio.

Ask about your day, and the Home speaker will give you the time, weather, estimated commute, the news and upcoming calendar appointments. It will convert miles into feet, and dollars into euros. Want to hear Adele or Coldplay? Home will fetch you some tunes.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon has already been at it for about two years. Its Echo speaker can do what Home does and more, thanks to Amazon’s head start in partnering with third-party services such as Domino’s Pizza and Fitbit. But Home is smarter in a few other ways, as it taps what it knows about you from Gmail, Maps and other Google services. Home is also $50 cheaper, at about $130 (though Amazon offers a mini “Echo Dot” version for just $50).

(Also see: Everything You Need to Know About Google Home)

At your command
Think of both Home and Echo as extensions of your iPhone or Android device. Sure, I can check weather on the phone, but why not just ask the speaker as I’m getting dressed? And no need to lift a finger to check the calendar. With guests over, I can resolve trivia disputes using voice searches and avoid screens. This week, I was able to keep tabs on the Chicago Cubs’ quest to break a century-long World Series drought.
Both devices work as alarm clocks or timers – great in the kitchen. Both can control lights, thermostats and other internet-connected appliances, though you need capable devices first.

Of course, I have to get used to speaking aloud with no one around. Privacy is a concern, too, once I enable all the features. Anyone within hearing distance will know when I’m seeing the doctor or leaving my apartment empty for vacation. Home and Echo are continually listening for commands, though Google and Amazon say nothing gets passed back to them until the speakers hear a keyword – “OK, Google” for Home and “Alexa” for Echo. A light comes on to remind you that it’s listening. You can turn off the microphone temporarily, too.

(Also see: Google Home Wants to Take Over Your Home Entertainment System)

Longing for more
Neither device is all that proactive. Android phones with the Google Now assistant will remind me when it’s time to leave for work or the airport, based on estimated travel times. But I’m usually not checking the phone as I’m getting ready to leave. I could use a nudge from either speaker. On the other hand, I might find a stranger’s voice jarring when I think I’m alone. It’s a new technology, and companies still have to figure out the right balance.

And while Home and Echo offer the basics, neither lets me dig deeper. Sure, I have an appointment at 11am, but where is it and with whom? And how can I get there? It’s back to the phone. Another limitation: Both speakers are tied to a single account, so families won’t get individual calendars and preferences.

In unity
The speakers are more powerful when they coordinate with your other devices.
The best stab so far comes from Amazon. Ask Echo the weather, and the speaker will tell you current conditions and the day’s forecast. But if you have an Amazon Fire tablet nearby, you automatically get a full-screen display with the week’s forecast. Ask Echo about the Cubs, and you’ll hear the score. The tablet gives you inning-by-inning breakdowns.

Home can control Google’s Chromecast streaming TV devices, but the preview I’ve been testing has been painful to use. You can pause, resume or forward video; you’re also supposed to be able to rewind and start from the beginning, but Home gets fussy. It currently works only with YouTube video (Netflix and Google Photos are coming soon). Even then, Home keeps thinking I’m requesting a song that doesn’t exist. There’s potential here, but controls on the phone are much easier. Watching TV shouldn’t take a lot of work.

(Also see: Google Cast App Rebranded and Revamped as Google Home)

Ideally, the technology will just know where and how to present information and entertainment. In such a scenario, you can set one alarm, and Google or Amazon will find you wherever you are – whether it’s on the speaker at home, or a phone if you’re away. Or if you ask the speaker about a nearby restaurant, directions go to your phone. For now, unification is limited to a shopping list you can add to and view (or hear) from any device.

Early smarts, early dumbs
Home, with an early incarnation of a Google digital companion called Assistant, seems the smarter of the two out of the gate. It knows about my upcoming flight, based on reservations in Gmail. It offers commute times using transit, as Google already senses through my Android phone that I don’t drive to work. Home can also estimate driving time to just about any other destination. Echo sends me to work, even when I ask about Boston. And Home is alone in setting alarms more than 24 hours away.

(Also see: Google Tries New Approach With Voice on Pixel Phone)

But partnerships will make these speakers more useful. I can ask Echo about my Fitbit goals or order pizza from Domino’s; I can’t with Home. Amazon has more than a thousand such partnerships, known as skills. Google’s integrations are initially limited to calling for Ubers, changing news or music providers and controlling smart devices from Phillips, SmartThings and Nest (a Google sister company).

Google still has bugs to work out. How are the Chicago Cubs doing? Home told me the Cubs are the regular-season division leaders and are based in Chicago. Duh! I had to ask again for the World Series score.

And after the Cubs won in extra innings early Thursday morning, both Home and Echo were nonchalant in giving me the final score. I wouldn’t have known from either that the Cubs were now the world champions and that Chicago fans got to finally celebrate.

Tags: Google, Google Home, Google Assistant, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Virtual Assistant, Home Entertainment, Android, Made by Google

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