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Voice-controlled networks could find a home with SMBs

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Hardware and software developers know that IoT for the enterprise doesn’t just mean industrial solutions, because many enterprises look more like homes than factories. Almost half the private sector output in the U.S. is produced by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and more than half of all small businesses are home-based. SMBs may be early adopters of IoT solutions that enable companies to connect lights, security systems, thermostats and office equipment to the Internet.

Smartphone applications and voice commands are two of the easiest ways to control connected devices. Apple and Samsung are well positioned in the SMB IoT market because so many people are already carrying their devices. But they face competition from Amazon, whose Alexa personal assistant software can control smart devices around the home. Alexa is embedded into Echo, which is currently a connected speaker and will become a touchscreen device this summer.

Samsung is also in the speaker business, thanks to its recent purchase of Harman Kardon. Harman Kardon has said its main value for Samsung is its telematics business, but of course the company also makes speakers, and now one of those speakers will be enabled by a digital personal assistant.

Strangely, it is not Samsung’s Bixby that will power Harman Kardon’s new Invoke speaker. Microsoft’s Cortana will answer when users address the device. Since Microsoft owns Skype, users will be able to integrate the speaker with Skype and use it to make phone calls.

The next step for SMBs may be controlling security cameras or thermostats using voice commands, and even more compelling could be the opportunity to control the IT network with simple commands. Small businesses often don’t have a dedicated IT staff, and as wireless networks become more capable and more critical, SMBs risk being left behind without simple controls.

Voice control of a Wi-Fi network is part of a new offering from Comcast called Xfinity xFi. voice commands control Wi-Fi through a visual interface that is displayed on the TV screen. Customers need a Comcast wireless gateway in order to use the service.

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