Getting connected: Smart speakers offer entertainment, answers and hands-free control

A smart speaker can quickly become the nerve centre of your home. — Antonio_Diaz / Getty Images via ETX Studio
A smart speaker can quickly become the nerve centre of your home. — Antonio_Diaz / Getty Images via ETX Studio

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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 3 — When it comes to connected devices, smart speakers are a popular choice. Thanks to simple voice commands, this kind of device can be used for listening to music, as well as searching for information and controlling other connected objects in the home. Find out why a smart speaker can be a great gift idea this holiday season.

What is a smart speaker?

Unlike a traditional speaker, a “smart” model integrates a voice assistant that users can interact with by speaking to it. Today, the three main intelligent assistants are Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant and Siri (Apple). With these speakers, the field of possibilities is immense, especially if you have other devices connected to your home network, as these can be controlled directly from your smart speaker.

Listening to music

The main purpose of a speaker is to play music (or listen to the radio and/or podcasts). Smart speakers, with an onboard virtual voice assistant, let users control playback of favourite songs or playlists with voice commands, without having to get up or find the remote control.

An answer for (almost) everything

With voice commands, you can also ask the intelligent assistant for a weather forecast or a traffic update before heading out, for example. And, more generally, it’s possible to ask them all sorts of questions, including complex ones, as these assistants are able to pick up keywords and related intentions. With Google Assistant, for example, the experience will be the same as using it on your smartphone.

Controlling other connected devices

Whether they’re called “actions” or “skills,” a smart speaker can be used to activate certain functions relating to other connected devices on the same network. This could be making a phone call, managing the brightness of a light bulb, changing the level of a thermostat, closing roller shutters or even activating a coffee machine.

Products on the market

There are speakers of all sizes and formats, from small pebble-like devices to models with integrated screens. In addition to Amazon, Google and Apple, all audio specialists now offer speakers compatible with at least one intelligent assistant. In other words, there’s something out there for every taste and every budget. — ETX Studio

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