Google Assistant + Nevo Butler : Better Together at the Android TV Summit

Some facts of Android TV Summit APAC:

Number of years Third year
Location Bangkok
Visitors About 1,500 (2018 was 1,200)

Nov 12th, 2019, Berkeley Hotel Bangkok:

Today kick off the 2019 edition of Android TV Summit APAC at heart of Bangkok metropolitan. Berkeley Hotel situated in the middle of famous Bangkok Pratunam night market.

The objectives of the Android TV Summit APAC 2019 are:

  • Get invaluable Android TV technical and commercial updates
  • Experience the latest product demos (Demo House)
  • Network with other ecosystem partners from across the region, including TV and Telco operators, TV set manufacturers, SOCs, OEMs, System Integrators, Broadcasters, Publishers and Digital Advertisers (Expo Day – Nov 14)

This year’s summit also added separate workshop session for Retail, Play, Monetization, and Panel TV. Also, first for Android TV summit is a full scale Google House Smart Home simulator that include a car porch with Android Auto demo.

As a recognized world leader in home entertainment, smart home device discovery and control solution, Universal Electronics Inc (UEI) were invited by Google team to support in the showcase of home entertainment advanced solution in Assistant application.

UEI showcased how Nevo Butler when used with Google Assistant can enhance the device and content interaction on operators’ set-top boxes, covering both new and legacy STBs.

Google Demo House : Day 1

Bedroom:
Mi Robot Vacuum
Mi Bedside Lamp
SDMC Smart speaker STB
SDMC aromatic lamp
Mi Desk Lamp 1SUEI demo:
Nevo Butler
IKEA Smart Curtain with IKEA Hub
Samsung 42” Tizen TV
SKB android TV STB
Ecolink door sensor
Google Home
Front of Google House:

SDMC smart curtain, Skyworth multi IP cam integration, Yale lock integration, Coship smart gas valve, etc.

UEI demo is the only operator content centric in the house, enabling an intuitive entertainment experience across all devices:

  • “Ok Google, talk to Nevo Butler” to activate Nevo Butler action in Google Assistant
  • “Watch TV”, demonstrate the power One Touch View, that even turns on TV and switch to the correct HDMI ports
  • Go to Disney Channel”, enhanced voice interaction experience can be applied to legacy STB
  • Go to channel 200”, bringing handsfree voice control experience to legacy STB
  • Mute TV” or “Turn off TV” followed by “Goodbye” to end the Google Assistant conversation.

Other noteworthy demo in the demo house:

Indoor and outdoor Air Quality Sensor concept demo by Kaon, the outdoor and indoor devices are with UE878 built in. Sensors measure PM10, PM2.5 and CO2.

Look out for more pictures and news around the expo in Day 2 update!

Is privacy an afterthought in a smart home?

Voice assistants from Google and Amazon are attempting to be a unified interface for consumers to interact with different smart home devices and services, further integrating themselves into every aspect of consumers' daily lives. In the past, these tech giants collected data whenever their voice assistant was used to perform an activity by the consumer, such as turning on a light or locking a door.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, they are now asking device-makers to send a continuous stream of information from connected devices; irrespective of whether or not the assistant was used to control the device, bypassing user agreements and asking device-makers to share data across companies. As an example, TVs would be required to report the channel that is currently being watched, eliminating the user's privacy over content consumption; or smart locks would be required to notify at all times whether or not the door bolt is engaged, thereby informing the company about the user's occupancy.

Russell, an analyst from Parks Associates Inc., calls device-status reporting "a bit of a Trojan Horse request".

 

The new recommendation requires consumers to place their trust in these companies, and raises alarming questions around data privacy. Though this information may seem trivial at first, every device at home serves as a map of the consumer's personal life, providing sensitive information such as when the consumer comes home and what time everyone in the household goes to sleep. This gives companies a glimpse into the consumer's preferences, schedule, and adds a literal ear into the consumer's life giving them the ability to profile consumers and use the collected data for various purposes, including marketing.

Users agree to provide information when they ask a smart device to perform an action, but this consent extends only to provide specific companies with specific data and for the specific intended use. Any additional information gathered and shared beyond that requires another level of permission that is currently not requested. Is this a problem better solved with regulations?

Bloomberg quoted an Amazon spokesperson saying that they cannot share details on how the data is going to be used in the future or how long the data is saved.

Not only does this new recommendation raise major privacy concerns, but also public guidelines shared by primary market shareholders don't set limits on what they can do with the information they collect. Having an insight into what consumers do in their private spaces can open doors to much larger issues. Bloomberg quoted an Amazon spokesperson saying that the company doesn’t sell user data and doesn’t use information from device-status reports for advertising, but cannot share details on how the data is going to be used in the future or how long the data is saved. All pointing to the lack of a proven business model, making it a loss-leader to first capture as much market share as possible and decide to monetize later on, a potential reason why the primary market shareholders are investing heavily and subsidizing hardware and services.

While policies are catching-up to the realities of the technology and market, companies must do the right thing, not the easy thing.

 

As a smart home technology provider, we at Universal Electronics Inc. understand the value of data in providing better and richer experiences. We believe that is how a home can truly be smart. Finding the right balance between rich AI models based on complete user data vs. fair use of data with proper consent for application, should be an industry-wide initiative. We believe the following must start today to ensure that we can deliver on the promise of a smart home:

  • User consent: Performing specific actions and sharing data requires user consent. A smart home device purchase means a consumer buys into a promise, whether stated explicitly or implicitly. They "approve" access to some data for a specific company to deliver a specific function. On anything beyond that, either through software updates, or integrations, companies need an explicit approval on what new data will be used, for what purpose, and by which company in terms that consumers can easily understand.
  • Regulations: The process needs to be regulated by establishing industry-wide standards and protocols to specify the frontiers of data collected and shared.
  • Level playing field: Consumers and companies must have a level playing field to avoid scenarios that result in a monopoly or duopoly; or those that limit chances of innovation, or risk consumer choice in the long run. This is easy to overlook when faced with decisions that are artificially influenced through free or subsidized services today, in hopes of building an unknown business model in the future without any boundaries imposed.

 

We should regard privacy as a core feature of all voice assistants, rather than being an afterthought.

Smart homes have lasting effects in a consumer's life. For an aging population, a smart home is essential in controlling how we live in our homes as we age with the help of technology. To ensure that a user's data and conversations are not being compromised, we should regard privacy as a core feature of all voice assistants, rather than being an afterthought. While policies are catching-up to the realities of the technology and market, companies must do the right thing, not the easy thing.

The industry is starting to take notice, and hopefully, we are ready to find a lasting solution:

Your Smart Light Can Tell Amazon and Google When You Go to Bed

Google Home and Amazon Alexa are asking smart home device makers for user info

Amazon, Google demand constant data from smart home devices

Your smart light can tell Amazon, Google when you go to bed at night

Your smart light can tell Amazon and Google when you go to bed, as tech giants track you from morning till night

For days when there is no cloud in sight…

For years, we worked towards a future where technology makes lives more convenient. As technology evolved, the way consumers interacted with their surroundings also evolved. We have come a long way from using physical devices such as keyboards as user interfaces, to today using voice as an interface through general assistants. Whether to interact with smart devices, or to gain information, these digital assistants flood the market to cater to our various needs, but don't address today's consumer behaviour.

Voice-based technologies experienced massive growth in the past five years leading to the rise of voice-controlled digital assistants, allowing interactions with devices in a natural way. Digital assistants, in addition to their shortcomings while controlling devices that lack cloud-to-cloud connectivity, have another limitation - their dependence on high-speed, reliable internet connectivity.

24 million in rural USA don’t have access to high-speed internet and  a portion of the population in every state still uses dial-up.

 

According to a recent report, 3.9 billion people in the world, out of the 7.593 billion lack access to the internet. In rural USA, 24 million don’t have access to high-speed internet and in every single state, a portion of the population doesn’t have access to broadband and still uses a dial-up connection. Actual weather conditions can also paralyze the internet, and lead to frequent outages that cause unreliable network connections. 

Scenarios with limited to no network connectivity poses several challenges in the adoption of useful services that could be offered through voice-enabled products, including:

  • Critical commands: Failure to enable use cases that require a critical, dependable service, such as home security use cases, for example - being able to arm the house when there is no internet connectivity.
  • Latency: Technology needs to be a reliable utility with known behavior and trusted response times. Poor latency in executing a capability is unacceptable.
  • Cost: Latency can be avoided by constant streaming and high data rate, but that would result in higher operational costs.

Research suggests that over the past decade, technological developments increased exponentially and computation power shifted from being cloud-intensive to being edge-intensive. The cost of computation reduced, and edge devices are now more powerful, making them capable of doing more intelligent (language) processing on the edge, instead of the cloud. So now, a simple "Good Night" command would not only turn off your TV, but would also arm your house. Imagine being able to control your security system with voice through your digital assistant - at all times, even when network connectivity is not available!

QuickSet SDK, was designed as a smarter edge to begin with, using an offline virtual machine that runs commands and rules locally.

 

Nevo Butler is built on QuickSet SDK which was designed as a smarter edge to begin with, enabling Nevo Butler deliver the intelligence needed, even when the device is offline. It merges offline voice processing for selected activities with an offline virtual machine running commands and rules locally, to provide reliability and control over privacy. Digital assistants on the market  rely heavily on the cloud for their functionalities, giving companies an opportunity to listen to their consumers, potentially blurring privacy lines.

Our platform delivers the ultimate user experience with conversational interactions through cloud based natural language understanding; while offering reliable, secure and low latency embedded voice capabilities that can be used offline for the most commonly used commands. You don't need to send electrons across the planet to decipher if someone just wants to turn the TV on, you can make a home smarter in-place, and connected when needed!

All fundamental tasks in entertainment control such as - turn on/off TV, turn up/down volume, change the channel, can be executed through local voice commands without ever having to find the remote control, or worrying about the internet being down. According to Nielsen, in USA, adults watch about five hours and four minutes of TV per day i.e 35.5 hours per week. By saving fractions of seconds in each interaction, by using voice to perform basic functions, we can have meaningful effects for the large volume of users that can benefit from this.

Adults in USA watch TV ~35.5 hours per week...we can have meaningful effect on users by saving fractions of seconds in each interaction...

 

Our approach via Nevo Butler addresses gaps while extending capabilities of existing digital assistants. For example, you can still tell your Google or Alexa to turn on your TV; or in a scenario where they aren't present in the same room, you can talk directly to your service provider to turn your TV on. 

As a white label digital assistant, all commands can be customized for very specific use cases, making Nevo Butler your new best friend!