The Power of Portability is Smart.
With the proliferation of voice assistants invading our homes and offices, it is becoming increasingly common that the main contenders in this space, Google and Alexa, are not only at ready to tell us the weather, switch on a light, or play our favorite music, but they can do so much more from securing our homes to managing our calendars. The main question that always plagued me when first getting these devices was why don’t they come with batteries? Here are a couple of obvious reasons I learned while working in this industry over the years. First, voice assistants drive a lot of power as they are always in the listening mode – for you to have instant voice access to “Hey Google” or “Alexa” at any time, those multiple microphones need to be ready to hear their “awake” word. The other reason, which is less obvious to consumers, is that cost increase on the main device would jump up dramatically if batteries were added. Let’s face it, when Amazon drops the Dot to $20 on Black Friday, they are basically wrapping a lot of money around their product. Even at full price, Amazon or Google don’t make a lot on their hardware. Why? When you ask Alexa to order a pizza, play Spotify or the hundreds of other commands, Amazon/Google get downstream revenue from all of those partners. Further to Amazon, they get you hooked on the Prime membership which further bolsters that revenue for them. The more devices from Amazon or Google that are in your possession, the more opportunity to use their search engines and partner apps to make your life easier and their pockets richer.
Ok, now you have this great smart assistant in your home or office, but need it tethered to the wall outlet to work. Now what? This is where Ninety7 comes in. We are a lifestyle accessories brand for these smart voice assistants among other products, who’s purpose is to make these core devices even more useful for the consumer. We were the first to enter this space as we truly saw an opportunity to elevate the consumer experience. We want you to cut the cord and get 6-8 hours of portability for playing music, games or gather information anywhere your wi-fi reaches. Portability is a benefit you might not know you need until you have it. Then it becomes obvious.
We have multiple Google Home and Amazon Echo devices in our home, primarily due to being in the business. That said, my entire family takes advantage of the portability the batteries bring to our smart assistants. Bringing the smart assistants to our back deck for barbeques is an awesome freedom to ask Alexa to play our favorite playlist or answer a question one of my guests might be stumped on (“Alexa, who won Superbowl 40?”). These devices have turned into great conversation pieces, but more importantly have made our entertainment so easy! With the addition of Multi-Room music, they are even that much better in sound and convenience. We are still learning new skills every week to make these devices so much more valuable.
As we have continued to work closely with Amazon and Google on current and future devices, I also wanted to share other benefits about portability and how they have affected some of our Ninety7 customers that we take care of daily.
1) Power Back Up – Many use smart assistants as timers to make sure their medications are given timely, or as alarm clocks to start their day. The smart assistant devices work when plugged in charging. You can use you Google/Alexa device when plugged in and when you need to be portable, you unplug and go. The same is true if you should lose power in the middle of the night, the battery would take over for 8+ hours of additional time to make sure you get to work on time!
2) Freedom – To be untethered from the wall has freedom for those of us who like to move the smart assistant from room to room without interruption or the clumsy need to bring the adapter/cable and find an outlet somewhere. To move seamlessly from the kitchen to the garage with your assistant while listening to a podcast and have up to 8 hours of cordless freedom is a great convenience for many. You can really test true portability thru connecting to a hotspot, then you can find real value in your battery accessory by having Alexa or Google with you at the park or in your hotel room.
3) Independence – We view independence as the ability to do what we want, when we want to. Add being able to turn a light on or off, arm and dis-arm your home, drop in on someone in another room with the sound of your voice? Wow. That is a game changer. We have customers that have to rely on others to shut those lights off, arm their homes and do things for them as they are disabled and cannot do it themselves. Voice assistants have opened a new world for them by giving them back their independence with just a simple vocal command. Adding portability to voice assistants just allows the consumer that much more comfort to have their device close to them without needing to find an outlet or know that they have back-up power for those critical reminders they need to assure they stay in good health.
4) Convenience – One thing that really surprised me when talking to our customers regularly is that many using a voice assist are of the older generation (60+ years). Usually when a new technology is introduced like the cell phone or computer, the elderly like my parents and many their age are usually the last adopters. Technology seems almost forced on them by the time they adapt. So I am surprised when talking to customers and find that many are my parents age! Cool. The more I think about it, voice assistants provide less friction in their life. If you want to listen to Frank Sinatra for example, you would have to pull your phone or MP3 player out, open a music app, find your artist, select the song or songs, hit play, adjust volumes, etc. These are all touch points that disappear with your voice. As I am aging, my vision is diminishing making it hard to see, so I can really see (no pun) how easy it is to just ask and bypass so many steps. The convenience of voice assist plus portability equals a great mix.
5) Companionship – Lets face it, there are a lot of lonely people in this world. Some might be by choice, others just want someone to talk to. Having Google or Alexa around to talk to is really like having a friend with you all the time to tell you a joke, share the weather, or even inform you on the news. It is truly a godsend for many who live by themselves and just need someone to talk to from time to time. Yes, it is a computer voice talking to you, but for many it is a conversation that didn’t exist before. Allowing the user to unplug and take their companion to the patio, garden or any room without cords just makes it that much of a better experience.
Overall, smart assistants are still at an infancy stage in many people’s homes. Many people question the concern over “big brother” listening to our conversations. If you have those concerns, then you might as well ditch your cell phone and computers. We live in a world of high tech. Smart assistants are here to stay and they are getting smarter and more intelligent to make our life easier. Voice recognition and better ability to decipher vocal inflections and different accents allow the assistants to understand requests better. Software is improving at a faster pace and these voice assistant responses are becoming more human, more empathetic and mimic overall personal qualities their owners want projected.
It is truly amazing to watch how these devices will continue to evolve, and at Ninety7 we are happy to be along on the journey to make them more useful to consumers with features like portability.
Kevin Brennan, Founder and CEO, Ninety7