Is Your Smart Home Ready for a Hybrid Voice Assistant?

Tod Caflisch
4 min readSep 21, 2023

September 21, 2023

As smart home technology evolves and standardization becomes more prevalent, there had to be some cross pollination at some point. Enter JBL, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Amazon and Google announced recently that a forthcoming line of speakers — Harman’s JBL Authentics 200, 300 and 500- will be able to host both of their voice assistants simultaneously. This move marks the first time multiple assistants can coexist where previous devices required users to choose between different voice platforms.

This functionality lets users toggle between the best features from each assistant, like Google’s search or Amazon’s shopping. And a new capability called Universal Device Commands (UDC) that allows users to stop a command, regardless of which assistant initiated the action — like timers and music. These are not new ideas as voice interoperability has been discussed between device makers and tech giants in the past. Unfortunately, technical hurdles and issues with collaboration stood in the way.

When it came to overcoming the technical challenges, Alexa and Google Assistant used hardware and components designed to work with both assistants. They also had to develop software rules that ensure the voices won’t talk over each other and figured out UDC mechanics across both platforms. Making all of that work really well with the right type of memory footprints and ensuring latency and the overall experience was perfect were at the core of their efforts.

Matter is a new smart-home interoperability standard that companies including Google and Amazon have signed onto. Matter is designed to make smart home devices simpler which has helped with their voice assistant interoperability. By giving your door lock and light bulb a way to talk directly to each other, either over WiFi or a newer protocol called Thread,

Matter makes the smart home faster and more responsive. It also enables an easier setup process, with compatible devices automatically showing up on your smartphone to allow you to connect them. Plus, with a common language that’s local to your home and doesn’t rely on the cloud, your devices can be controlled by more than one smart home ecosystem or voice assistant.

This is not the only push for interoperability however, Amazon spearheaded an alliance called the Voice Interoperability Initiative in 2019. Google, meanwhile, has been a little more hesitant to move toward voice assistant harmony. In 2021 Google was having technical challenges that prevented its assistant from being used with others on the same smart speaker. Google has stated the new collaboration with Amazon would help the company evaluate whether it wants to move further into interoperability.

So where does Apple Siri fit into this whole idea? The collaboration could also be about beating Apple. When you’re talking about brand loyalty, Apple has an edge on both Google and Amazon. The collaboration helps Google and Amazon counter the Apple/Siri brand loyalty because of their flexibility and options.

Excitement around generative AI could help boost consumer interest in voice assistants. Generative AI is being employed to improve assistants, including rumored updates to Siri. It’s a sign that Google and Amazon are cognizant of the fact that there’s new fresh competition on the voice assistant front because of generative AI. There’s a lot happening in the voice assistant space, and this is Google and Amazon’s way of trying to stay ahead of the competition.

How do you see these developments playing out in the smart home? Would you consider deploying a Harman’s JBL Authentics smart speaker or something similar in your smart home? What advantages do you see the dual operability bringing to your daily activities? Or maybe you’ve built your smart home around Apple HomeKit — does the Amazon and Google interoperability even matter?

Let Debbie and I know what you think in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’

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Tod Caflisch

Smart Home technology thought leader with passion for out of the box solutions for smart home integrations, focusing on efficiency, safety and sustainability.