Voice Tech

By on Jan 15, 2019 in Technology

Voice-controlled online entertainment is flourishing in American homes. Many multifamily firms have expressed interest in smart speakers and similar tech options for their properties. Until a few industry challenges are resolved, however, voice-activated gadget cannot fulfill their potential in multifamily applications.

Growing Popularity

Consumers love voice-controlled devices. In 2017, about 40 percent of broadband households used voice recognition software. The growth continues. Research and analysis firm Parks Associates estimated that household penetration will reach 47 percent by 2022.

Voice-activated artificial intelligence (AI) offers multiple conveniences for users. With a simple command or question, users receive helpful information such as commute updates, weather forecasts, and reminders. Consumers also turn to voice recognition software to manage their other devices. Last year, the average American household had 8.8 devices with unique interfaces. Voice-activated technology bypasses the need to switch between devices by offering one interface for them all.

The growing popularity and usefulness of voice-controlled AI are promising. Though the technology appeals to consumers, it may not yet offer full value to property owners.

Growing Pains

Consumer-friendly AI is capable of more now than ever before. Oddly, flaws with basic functionalities still plague the technology, causing trouble for multifamily applications.

Command comprehension is the pitfall most likely to annoy users without causing serious damage. Voice-controlled tech may not respond properly because it does not understand user commands. Virtual assistants fail to accommodate for variables such as user syntax, dialects, and the use of non-English words or names.  As a result, user satisfaction with virtual assistants—and the properties that carry them—will vary.

Connectivity poses a greater issue. Voice-controlled tech often integrates with other devices. A smart speaker like Alexa, for example, can control the thermostat, lighting, and alarm system for a unit. Unfortunately, interoperability—the ability for one gadget to operate seamlessly with others—is still an industry problem. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections commonly fail between AI assistants, entertainment devices, home utilities, and fixtures. About 10 percent of consumers return their voice-controlled devices because of poor interoperability.

Security risks threaten multifamily on the most severe level. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections leave units and residents vulnerable to attacks. Hackers have used Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices to threaten owners’ safety and remotely control their homes. As long as manufacturers can get away with the minimal protections for their products, the problem will continue.

When included as a feature in the home, dissatisfaction with tech can affect reviews of the property. Rather than seeing tech integration and security as a manufacturer issue, property managers may take the heat.

Then, of course, there is change preparedness. Fast-paced development in the tech world leads to hardware with a short shelf life. Even with relevant hardware, software regularly requires updates.

Change in residents poses another issue. Frequent turnover requires apartments to establish protocols to clear old residents from device permissions and add on new residents. Multiple residents within a unit as well as residents’ guests add greater complexity. Credentials management can be a tedious and time-consuming prospect for management teams.

Currently, consumers buy their own voice-activated AIs. Associated expenses and risks become localized. Perhaps that’s for the best. Until interoperability, communication, and security issues are resolved–or at least abated–voice-operated tech may be more of a nuisance than asset for multifamily properties.