With focus on interoperability, is Nevo Butler a smarter home hub?

We’re all getting pretty used to summoning our various devices via voice by now, be it through Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google Assistant. Now, a new company is getting into the smart home ecosystem. Universal Electronics, Inc. (UEI) is pairing its digital assistant platform for the smart home, code-named Nevo Butler, with TrulyHandsfree voice command capabilities, including customer-branded wake words from speech-recognition firm Sensory.

On paper at least, Nevo Butler looks like a pretty generic but widely customizable remote control, enabling applications like home entertainment control, home automation experiences, and most importantly, interoperability across diverse and fragmented systems — a common problem that manufacturers are starting to think about, given the dozens of apps that some smart home users are forced to endure.

In addition to offering a versatile monitoring and control assistant solution for the smart home, Nevo Butler includes a customizable digital assistant front-end capable of addressing and controlling a wide range of devices. The product comes available as kits that address specific channel needs including smart home security, energy management, entertainment control, and hospitality functions.

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For example, the security-focused kit is packaged with door/window and motion sensors, while the hospitality kit comes with a smart thermostat and a motion occupancy sensor. Universal Electronics conducted product demos of the Nevo Butler at CES 2019, but there’s no definitive word yet on pricing or availability.

“This product gives our customers a powerful platform to offer innovative and new voice-powered services to consumers while they remain in charge of the consumer experience,” said Arsham Hatambeiki, senior vice president of Product and Technology for UEI, in a press release. “Sensory’s voice-recognition capabilities provide a reliable foundation to build new digital experiences in the home that consumers will trust and use on a daily basis.”

TrulyHandsfree is one of the most widely deployed speech recognition engines in the smart home market, having been loaded on more than two billion devices worldwide. The voice control module offers support for every voice UI application with several types of wake word options.

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“TrulyHandsfree was purposefully engineered to offer extremely accurate and noise-robust wake word and speech recognition on devices with ultra-low-power configurations to very high-performance components,” said Todd Mozer, CEO of Sensory.

The whole gizmo is powered by nevo.ai, the manufacturer’s proprietary artificial intelligence engine and, unlike many smart home digital assistants, can be operated while offline for the most commonly used commands. While online, the Nevo Butler can curate and interact with common home automation devices such as sensors and thermostats through the user’s home Wi-Fi or Zigbee network.

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