The cool factor of smart home technology goes up a notch with the debut of a new voice-controlled table lamp from GE.
On Wednesday, GE debuted the first stand-alone LED table lamp embedded with Amazon Alexa Voice Service. The futuristic-looking lamp has a modern vibe, with a glowing LED-filled circular tube on a small gray base.
The voice-controlled table lamp has microphones and a speaker, so that a homeowner can simply say "lights on" or "lights off" to control the lighting, as well as give it additional Alexa commands, such as asking about the latest headlines or asking about the weather. Consumers will be able to pre-order the lamp in early 2017, with delivery by the second quarter of the year.
"The way it works essentially is it's a table lamp. It has the Alexa Voice Service embedded inside. You could use it very much as you might use an Echo or Dot today in any room in your home to activate the Alexa service. At the same time you get a wonderful light source, a table lamp," said Jeff Patton, general manager of Connected Home Products for GE Lighting.
SEE: Amazon Alexa will now talk to GE's connected appliances in smart home (TechRepublic)
GE began developing the product earlier this year because the smart home market continues to grow, with a three-fold increase expected by 2020, said Tom Stimac, chief innovation officer for GE Lighting.
"What we look at in a lot of the reviews and work that we do, the consumer wants a seamless experience, they want that ultimate experience inside a house. As we started looking at a lot of different ways of accomplishing that experience, a couple of things came to us. Lighting is in every room of the house, whether it's the pantry, kitchen, bathroom, or closet. There's almost no space in your home that doesn't have some type of lighting in it," Stimac said.
"People are wanting to get away from apps. They're really trying to understand how not to always have their phone on them. They want to understand how things can work for them. They say, 'how do I walk into a room and the lights just go on?' The first component of that overall experience that we've seen materialize is voice. Everyone has their own voice. It's something you use anyway. You can walk into a space and say, 'lights on, lights off,'" Stimac said.
Patton said this is just the first of what will be many smart home products that GE develops. "Our goals are around delivering simplification of experience for people," Patton said. "As we've used that as our key motivator out there, that's one reason why we chose voice as a key controlling element as we roll forward. There will be different features in months and quarters and years to come."
As for the price, Patton said they haven't finalized it yet, but they are aiming for a cost close to the Amazon Echo. The Amazon Echo retails for $179.99.
Stimac said new smart home products will begin rolling out in the first and second quarters of 2017.
Lighting is an easy entry point for those who want to have a smarter home, just as it's a common entry point for municipalities adding smart city technology.
"Lighting is something we use day in and day out, and when you look at how you use it and when you want to use it, there is a lot of basic automation built in already, with Christmas lights going on and off outside of a home. The big thing we can't underestimate is it's relatively easy to install or uninstall," Stimac said. "It's the same thing with an overall city. If you have a pole somewhere and you're taking a light off, and putting a light on, it's one of the easier things on the operational side of a business that you can do."
Another factor that must be considered is the appeal of having the latest technology. Smart lighting adds the cool factor, Stimac said, but in an accessible manner.
"I think a lot of people hear a lot about artificial intelligence and self-driving cars that they know they can't grasp because it's outside what they do on a day-to-day basis. But this is within the overall scope of what the consumer can do, and it makes them feel like they're actually pushing themselves forward," Stimac said.
Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:
- GE Lighting has created an LED table lamp, the first-ever light source embedded with Amazon's Alexa.
- The market for smart home products is expected to grow three-fold by 2020.
- This is the first of what GE expects to be many smart home products that they will develop, with others debuting as early as the first quarter of 2017.