As smart homes become smarter, tech companies rush to get in the … – Los Angeles Times

For the majority of its existence, home automation has been confined to fiction and the houses of the wealthy.

But as more affordable smart-home technology trickles into the market, the demographics are shifting, and tech companies are jostling to get their virtual home assistants in the door. Many are even teaming up with home builders to develop connected homes from the ground up.

In 2015, consumers bought 1.7 million voice-compatible devices, according to a report from analytics start-up VoiceLabs. Last year that number grew to 6.5 million. The company predicts that 24.5 million voice-compatible devices will be shipped this year, ready to field the requests of their owners to turn on the lights, lock the door or close the blinds and play some music.

In 2014, Apple introduced its Siri-equipped smart-home system HomeKit, allowing users to control all their connected products — Wi-Fi, lights, thermostats, etc. — from an iPhone or iPad.

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