Since CEDIA last September, the industry has been electrified with the promise of voice as the default home control interface of the future. But control company Josh.ai has been working toward this vision for years, and it recently introduced a new pricing model to help integrators bring this hot technology to even more customers—and to collect some recurring revenue while they’re at it.
The Josh platform, which the company describes as “the first voice-activated home automation system for high-end homes,” launched in 2015 after five years of development, and was conceived as a way to control everything in a home as naturally and simply as possible. With only a network-connected Mac Mini on the hardware side, and input from smartphones, tablets, or devices like Amazon Echo, Josh can do nearly anything you’d expect a control system to do, and even works directly with platforms like Crestron, Control4, and others to do everything else.
“We integrate directly with Lutron, Sonos—really deep integration there—tons of cameras, all the SnapAV stuff, Meridian, Kaleidescape, you name it,” said Alex Capecelatro, Josh.ai’s co-founder and CEO. “And a lot we’ve built out are really powerful tools for the integrator, so the installation process is really simple, the diagnostic tools we have are really great. And we have a full UI across the web, iPhone, Android, iPad. And having that whole suite, when integrators learn that we’re more than just this voice system—they realize Alexa’s a great input, but kind of like the iPad, it’s just an input mechanism to get to the real technology—with Josh, we’re trying to build out the actual technology as well.”
According to Capecelatro, the inspiration behind the technology came from a familiar place: co-founder and CTO Tim Gill’s love of science fiction and the desire to create a real-world version of the voice user interface (VUI) from Star Trek. So Gill developed a voice-controlled chat bot that could respond to simple questions, then later to act on commands to various APIs, with companies such as Uber. Eventually, Gill and Capecelatro began working together to harness the power of VUI to transform the experience of home control.
“And so we started just thinking about where we would fit into the ecosystem, and we’d both been Crestron and Control4 users, [Gill’s] got Savant in his home,” Capecelatro said. “And we just thought, if you start from scratch you can create the ecosystem, you can create an experience that’s just more powerful. And at the end of the day, the experience we’re trying to create is not all about voice; it’s really all about using artificial intelligence and natural input—natural human interaction—to be able to interact and control the environment around you.”
Capecelatro said that for about half of the homes in which Josh is installed, it serves as a standalone control platform that not only manages all of a home’s connected devices, but features an AI learning mechanism to pick up on user patterns and make recommendations. In the rest, it works alongside systems like Crestron and Control4, for more complex aspects like matrix switching.
And while Capecelatro said that high-end residential is still the target market, it recently launched a new pricing plan to help integrators sell the solution to clients who might be a little more hesitant to part with their cash all at once. With the new plan, clients pay only about 25 percent of the full cost up front, and then are charged a monthly fee—a portion of which goes to integrators—over the course of five years.
“With this new model, integrators are beginning to go to some of their smaller clients, because it’s not as big of a line item,” Capecelatro said. “They love that they can go to a customer who has a reasonable house, but they couldn’t go to in the past and say ‘Here’s [an product that costs X dollars].’ So it gives them an opportunity to reach more clients.”
And for the burgeoning market of consumers interested in smart home technology and voice control thanks to the mainstream presence of platforms like Amazon Alexa, Josh presents a compelling, professionally installed option. “There’s always this question of well, ‘What can Alexa control?’ and ‘What can Josh control?” Capecelatro said. “And the reality is, for Alexa to do a CEDIA-level home, it needs to hook into another control system. With Josh, it basically is ready to go.”
Click here to see a video demonstration of the ease with which Josh can be set up.
For those attending ISE 2017, Capecelatro and Gill will be teaching a course "Integrating Voice Control for the Whole Home," on February 9 from 2:00–3:30 p.m. For more info or to register, click here.