Voice control technology is becoming increasingly popular in our lives and homes. More than a third of Americans own a smart speaker – that’s about 100 million users – according to National Public Media’s 2022 Smart Audio Report and 86% agree that they “allow for a more convenient living experience.”
In a study of kitchen technology and Millennials, the National Kitchen & Bath Association reported, “Technology is becoming essential, not optional, in kitchen design.” Manufacturers are increasingly including it in appliances, fixtures and other home essentials, so the likelihood of a client having these capabilities in their purchases is also growing.
At this time though, the organization’s research director says only about 30% of designers are intentionally incorporating technology into their kitchen projects. Those who do say “Tech keeps the kitchen up-to-date and makes it easier to upgrade when it’s fully integrated.” It’s the younger designers who are leading the way, the NKBA research director told a trade magazine recently. One surveyed designer commented that since installing voice control features in their own home, answering client questions became easier and better-informed.
Older Voice Control Enthusiasts
Dallas area designer Robin Burrill is one of these tech-friendly professionals, though not a Millennial. “I might be dating myself,” she muses, “but I remember when Lost in Space came out and we all thought it was SO futuristic…but here it is.” Clients are requesting voice control because they see its convenience, she says.
Others are thinking about their home’s value and future-proofing it for aging at home, the designer comments. She’s specifying voice control features for her mother’s home, noting that “She’s not the typical client who would ask us about the technology, but in my experience, any client with parents like [mine] express gratitude later for the improved quality of life and peace of mind for their loved ones.” Safety is a benefit Burrill would like to see communicated more often to clients, she says.
“I find my older clients are just starting to experiment with voice control, while my Millennial clients use it more consistently,” notes Cindy Kelly, a designer in Beach Haven, New Jersey.
This generation’s strong enthusiasm for technology inspired the NKBA to study their interests and habits in more depth. “As digital natives, Millennials use technology to make life easier, convenient and more efficient,” the study noted. They can also use voice control to enhance socializing, for example using a single voice command to adjust the lights and temperature, turn on a playlist and bring down the window coverings.
Voice Control in the Kitchen
“Only one in 10 homeowners currently use voice assistants to control products in the kitchen,” according to the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence, “but Millennials and high-income homeowners use them for this purpose at twice the rate,” the research firm reported in its July 2022 trend email.
The top use was looking up recipes, RICKI shared. The next five were surfing the web while hanging out in the kitchen, shopping for groceries online, getting help with cooking and controlling appliances or faucets. This matches Kelly’s client experience. She also reports it being used for home security and lighting.
E-commerce platform Appliances Connection CEO Albert Fouerti says clients most value the ability to control appliances or fixtures while doing other tasks. “For example,” he notes, “while you are mixing ingredients for meatloaf, you can use your voice to preheat the oven, then turn on the faucet without touching it with food-covered hands!” Ranges and faucets are among the top-selling voice-controlled products the firm sells.
It’s a growing trend, the retailer adds, with more product launches tied to virtual assistants like Alexa. “Looking at the number of items with voice control introduced on our platform per year, 2019 was the big jump.” There were 624 new voice control models in that period, more than twice the number the year before and far outpacing the 88 models available in 2017.
“The numbers since have almost certainly been skewed by pandemic timing,” Fouerti notes, “as recent years haven’t come close.” In the early months of Covid, when it was thought that surface contact was a greater risk than it eventually proved to be, hands-free sales were a natural byproduct for anyone who could get a faucet delivered and installed.
As health professionals noted in this article on voice control, there is tremendous potential for this technology to make independent living easier and safer for older and disabled adults and more convenient for all of us. It’s not without its drawbacks, including the risk of privacy loss and hacks, but the capability, quality and selection are all increasing. How will you use it in your home?