Speak Up! How Voice Technology Is Changing the Home

“Hey Google, what’s a voice-activated device?”

Here’s an experiment: Turn on the television, flip through a magazine, browse social media or shop, well, anywhere. How long before you see an ad for some new voice-assisted, hands-free, connected home device?

It’s not surprising that voice-activated technology has exploded in popularity. After all, it has tremendous potential to make life easier, especially for older adults.

What Are Voice-Activated Devices? 

Also known as smart home devices and connected devices, voice-activated devices enable users to make a request, set a reminder, or perform other simple tasks just by talking.

Ask the device a question, and it will respond:

“Alexa, what’s the weather forecast for this Friday?”

“It doesn’t look so nice on Friday … down to 24 degrees and raining.”

Give it a command, and it will carry out the task:

“Hey Google. Lower the temperature in the bedroom by 5 degrees at 8 p.m.”

[Thermostat adjusts.]

Running the gamut from novelty to convenience to lifesaver, smart home devices can reach into every nook of our home:

Home Safety — doorbells, garage doors, smoke alarms, home security systems.

Entertainment — TV, video games, speaker systems.

Energy — lights, thermostats, alarm clocks.

Wellness — exercise equipment, medical alert bracelets, fitness trackers, health monitors.

Kitchen — refrigerator, oven, grocery ordering, grill.

Mobile — smartphones, tablets, smartwatches.

Ask your smart speaker to turn your smart oven on to 425 degrees. Instruct your phone to show you the current feed of your video doorbell. Tell your TV to call your spouse at work. Call your grandkids without having to lift a finger.

It’s all there at your (voice) command.

At Home With the Internet of Things

Voice-activated home devices and appliances are part of the growing Internet of Things — a network of web-enabled everyday devices that collect, send and act on data they get from their surrounding environments. They can often (but not always!) talk to each other, letting you seamlessly control different aspects of your home.

These advanced electronics continue to claim a growing share of the consumer market, mainly because voice-activated technology is often the smarter, faster and easier way to perform everyday activities.

They can help you set up daily routines, like medication reminders, alerts, and turning lights on and off.

They can help you control and automate a lot of things around the house — lights, thermostats, televisions, door locks.

They can connect you to real-time information and services like shopping and weather.

They can be a huge help to people with limited vision or reduced finger dexterity.

They can reduce social isolation by helping people, especially seniors, connect to friends and family.

Even senior housing organizations have started to embrace the trend, investing in voice-activated technology to support their residents.

Staff can upload calendar events and push out important announcements — and residents can ask their devices about things like what’s on the menu that night or when the next movie night is scheduled. In one housing community, a resident organized a regular music night in the lobby, where she and her neighbors gathered to listen to symphony broadcasts on her Amazon Echo.

When it comes to voice-activated technology, it seems, the only limit is your imagination … and maybe your Wi-Fi signal.

Read more about how one senior housing community is using voice tech to connect with others, gain access to information, and enjoy freedom and independence.