Notes from the IoT – Episode 1: “OK Google, can you… No? OK Siri, how about you?”

Some day there may come a day when all of the worlds things and all of the worlds assistants work together in beautiful harmony! But today… It not that day!  Like Aragorn, I too hope for a better world someday, but also like Aragorn, today I prepare for war!


Dramatic?  OK, maybe a bit.  But the current state of IoT really can feel like fighting a war.  No fewer than five primary AI assistants are vying to be the central nervous system of your new “smarter” universe and each proposes to draw you in to a broader ecosystem (and trap you there! muahahahaha).  Wait.  Five?!  WTF are you talking about???  Well let’s consider… Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri are obvi, but please don’t forget Miss Cortana over in Redmond or our good pal Bixby over in Korea (yes, Bixby counts).  And this is just tallying up the West.  Who knows what (government approved) assistants lurk in China!

Anyhow, each of these assistants has some level of play.  Alexa is in the lead with a rich skills ecosystem, tie-in to the Amazon shop-o-verse and the deepest inventory of home automation integrations.  Google brings (occasionally) startlingly natural AI to the game along with integration to their also impressive ecosystem of tools (YouTube, Play content, Casting, GMail).  Siri.  Well.  Siri is the center of the i-o-verse and if you’re in that ‘verse, that’s probably a ’nuff said.  Cortana, conversely, is in all things Microsoft including XBox and Windows and, unlike Siri, is starting to play well with others having become besties with Alexa.  Which brings us to Bixby.  Poor Bixby.  There is very little to report here, but Samsung is absolutely the top Android phone and has a very deep home automation bench by way of SmartThings and their smart appliance line.

Now it’s very tempting to become sort of paralyzed trying to choose which of these magical friends to fully commit to.  But to that we at ComplaintsHQ say… Pshah!  It’s the 21st century!  Commitment is for old folks.  Feeling that you need to be tied down is what they want you to feel.  That is how they get ya!  We would submit that while the IoT world remains fragmented and at war, you choose no side other than that of convenience.  Let the use case drive the technology selection!

Consider a real world case here at HQ.  From the inaugural IoT post you may recall a pretty long list of things and a few Google Homes.  And sure enough, the lab did indeed initially expand into IoT territory by way of Google Home.  Since then, however, I’ve discovered devices that are useful, but only work with Home Kit, or only work with Alexa.  At the same time, the hub manufacturers have been competing for value as well.  The Home Pod, which I ended up buying at a pretty deep discount, is actually a fantastic home audio device.  Significantly better than the Amazon or Google offerings.  That it integrates with Apple Music (obviously), but also Spotify, makes it extremely useful for this purpose.   For their part, Amazon has continued to scale in every direction, as is there way, and has done the best job cultivating the biggest ecosystem, vertically as well as horizontally.  So today, an Echo Show is also in the mix (which, incidentally, is a pretty decent “kitchen computer”) “Alexa, show me how to cook spaghetti!”

Now all of this is not to say that this situation is a great one, or really acceptable, but at least most of these devices are reasonably priced.  Ultimately, a universal industry standard for the device control protocol would be nice, and one is potentially coming in Matter, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.  In the meantime “Hey Google, tell Alexa to tell Siri to play some music on Spotify!”