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Five years ago, intelligent personal assistants Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More (IPA) sounded like something out of the 2002 futurist action-thriller, “Minority Report.” Today, IPA software agents such as Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri have become essential tools for millions of tech users. This number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years as more voice-powered smart home products arrive on the market.

In this article, you’ll learn more about Amazon Alexa and the products behind it. You’ll also see how Apple Siri integrates with HomeKit, Apple’s protocol that allows software developers to make applications that work with home automation products. Finally, you’ll see a comparison between both products. You can decide for yourself which one is better.

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Need to Know

Before digging into a comparison, it’s important to recognize how both companies view overall integration in the smart home industry. Amazon makes it possible for any product with a speaker and microphone to work with Alexa. Conversely, Alexa can conceivably communicate with any smart home device that has Wi-Fi.

Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit

Apple’s approach is vastly different. Only Apple products have Siri installed. For Siri to interact, smart home products must be HomeKit-compatible.

Pros and cons exist for both systems, as you’ll see below.

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Amazon Alexa and Its Products

Amazon’s voice assistant first arrived on the scene in late 2014 in the form of the Amazon Echo, a 9-inch-tall cylinder speaker that performs various tasks, all controlled by voice. Since that time, the number of products using Alexa has grown steadily.

Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire HD 8 both feature Alexa, as does the Amazon Tap and Amazon Dot. Third-parties have also introduced Alexa-supported products, including the Pebble Core, Nucleus Anywhere Intercom, and Invoxia Triby.

Alexa knows a lot about music, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that it first launched on the Echo. Today, Alexa provides hands-free voice control for many of the most popular music streaming services, including Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. These integrations vary by hardware.

More Than Music

Alexa’s popularity isn’t necessarily because of music. That honor goes to Alexa Skills, which are the apps that work with hardware to give you a more personalized experience. To date, there are over 3,000 Alexa Skills and counting, courtesy of the open source Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).

As we previously mentioned Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple's Competitor Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple's Competitor In this article, you'll learn the differences between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We'll also take a look at what features an Apple speaker may include. Read More , one important aspect of Alexa Skills is the Smart Home Skill API. With this tool, manufacturers can have Alexa communicate with their smart appliances. As a result, you can talk to an Alexa-based speaker to control lights, door locks, thermostats, fans, and more.

Siri Meets Apple HomeKit

Apple Siri became an integral part of iOS devices beginning with the iPhone 4s in 2011. Since then, the software has arrived on other products, including the Apple TV, CarPlay, Apple Watch, and, as of 2016, macOS.

Philips Hue Smart Lighting

Like Alexa, Siri likes listening to music. Beginning with iOS 10, Siri also works with third-party iOS apps. Siri’s biggest challenge to date relates to Apple HomeKit, an initiative first announced in 2014.

Welcome Home

HomeKit allows software developers and hardware manufacturers to work hand-in-hand to create voice-controlled home appliances. You control these products either by using Siri on your Apple device or by using the Apple Home app, which arrived with iOS 10 earlier this year.

The Current Landscape

Intelligent personal assistants represent an emerging technology with a lot of unknowns. As such, you can expect these products to change significantly over the next few years, both in what they can do and what products they support.

Choice of Hardware

In a perfect world, Apple would want every smart home product on the planet to integrate with HomeKit. Siri is another matter, however.

Historically, Apple hasn’t allowed third-party hardware to use its proprietary software. Therefore, Siri is only available on Apple hardware.

With the Alexa Voice Service API, any manufacturer can add Alexa to products that include a microphone and speaker. Once integrated, these products can access built-in capabilities 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart Despite all the things that you can do with Alexa out of the box, its extensibility via Skills is far more intriguing. Here are 20 Echo Skills that may surprise you! Read More of Alexa, like music playback, timers and alarms, package tracking, and more.

Winner — If you believe every smart home product with a speaker and microphone should be voice-powered, Alexa wins hands down.

About That Integration

Alexa currently integrates with more products than HomeKit because Alexa Skills is entirely software-based and open source. These products include Samsung SmartThings Hub The Coolest Smart Gadgets Compatible With a SmartThings Hub The Coolest Smart Gadgets Compatible With a SmartThings Hub The SmartThings hub connects wirelessly with hundreds of compatible smart devices, allowing you to monitor, control, and secure your home from anywhere in the world. Read More , Wink Hub, Nest, Haiku Home, and many more.

By contrast, Apple’s HomeKit requires that hardware manufacturers install a special chip in their products. Only when that happens can Siri communicate with these devices. Among the products that work with both systems are Philips Hue 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level Without Philips Hue, however, the smart home concept might never have gotten off the ground. Here are some cool ways to make use of them. Read More , LIFX, ecobee, and select Honeywell devices.

Winner — A clear win for Amazon? Not exactly, at least in the long-run.

Apple’s hardware chip requirement means it takes longer for HomeKit-compatible products to reach the market. However, open source applications like Alexa Skills are more prone to security attacks, which is something to consider. Because of this, consider this a draw.

What About the Apps?

To use your voice to control a smart home product with Alexa, you must first install its Alexa Skills in the Alexa app. You also need to learn which commands work with each product. It’s been my experience that finding these commands is sometimes a complicated process and requires a lot of trial and error.

Don’t want to use your voice to control a device? You’ll also need to download the product’s official app from the App Store or Google Play.

HomeKit Alexa Apps

To setup HomeKit-compatible products, you must first scan the unique HomeKit barcode found on each product. You do so by using the Home app for iOS Getting the Most Out of Apple HomeKit and the iOS 10 Home App Getting the Most Out of Apple HomeKit and the iOS 10 Home App In this article, you’ll learn about the growing list of HomeKit-related products and how to control them. You’ll also see how to spot a compatible product in the marketplace. Read More . Once you do, you should be able to control the device both by using your voice with Siri and through the Home app.

In practice, I have found that HomeKit integration doesn’t always work and sometimes requires reboots, both to the smart home appliance and Apple device.

Winner — Steady improvements with HomeKit should make Apple the winner here. Honestly, however, there are currently problems with both systems.

Big Unknowns

It’s still too early to declare a winner in the battle between Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. Alexa has certainly gotten an excellent head start. However, one should never count out Apple.

If you don’t own Apple products, the choice is straightforward. Otherwise, look for a smart device that works with both Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. That way, you’re covered regardless of where the industry goes.

Which smart home devices do you use or are most interested in buying? Let us know in the comments below.

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