Nowadays, we expect a lot from our home tech. With the rise of the internet of things and smart homes, consumers want everything right at their fingertips. Whether that's streaming your favourite Spotify playlist, setting a timer for the kitchen, or checking if it's going to rain when you're weighing up whether to take an umbrella out with you; a smart speaker is the ideal piece of kit for the modern age.
What is a smart speaker?
As the name suggests, a smart speaker is a standalone speaker- with one key difference. They also come with an included virtual assistant, which is the "smart" bit. This means that rather than just playing music from another source, they can play music directly, along with performing a whole host of other tasks.
Amazon and Google are by far the most popular smart speaker brands on the market. However, these devices are incredibly popular nowadays, and as such, there is an enormous range of models to choose from. These include offerings from big names like Bose, Apple, and Sonos, along with smart speakers from more bespoke brands such as Audio Pro.
Most smart speakers are relatively small. Some, such as the Amazon Echo Dot, aren't much larger than a particularly thick coaster. Others, such as the Gigaset Smart Speaker, are a fair bit larger, at up to a foot tall. These larger models tend to be cylindrical to better radiate sound, whereas smaller smart speakers are typically spherical or disc-shaped.
How does a smart speaker work?
Smart speakers are always listening out for their “wake word”. This will vary from one model to another, and depends on the virtual assistant they use. If they use Alexa, then it will just be “Alexa” by default, while those with Google’s virtual assistant use “okay Google” and “hey Google”. It’s possible to change the wake word for Alexa in the Alexa app, but not for Google Assistant.
Once they hear the wake word, smart speakers then begin listening to what you say to them. So, if you wanted to listen to some music on your Amazon Echo, for instance, you'd just say, "Alexa, play my Daily Mix from Spotify."
One important thing to note: smart speakers need to be connected to the internet in order to function properly. If your WiFi cuts out, then you'll find that the speaker is unable to operate until it reconnects.
What can smart speakers do?
Thanks to their built-in virtual assistants, smart speakers are capable of performing a wide range of tasks. Perhaps the most common use is streaming music. Just ask your smart speaker to play something, and it will do it- no faffing about with searching on your smartphone or anything. You may need a premium subscription to get the most out of this feature, but even free users can
Smart speakers can also be linked up to other smart home products, to allow you to control those with your voice, too. For instance, you can turn smart lights on and off, or have your smart kettle start boiling, without getting out of your seat. Some are compatible with smart TVs, although this will depend on the particular model.
Finally, the virtual assistant in your smart speaker can also be used as, well, a virtual assistant. Whether that's setting alarms and reminders, writing a shopping list, or checking the weather forecast, these handy devices help make everyday tasks that much simpler.