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Thread: Comparison: Ra2 voice control via Amazon Echo vs. Apple HomeKit

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Comparison: Ra2 voice control via Amazon Echo vs. Apple HomeKit

    In my own home (large RR2 installation with about 120 devices), I have both Amazon Echo and recently added HomeKit when the new Connect Bridge was released.

    For those of you who are frustrated by the lack of good integration with Echo, you might want to discuss the benefits of Apple Homekit with your customers. (Maybe Google Home can do all the things that Apple Homekit can do, but I haven't yet set one up, so i can't compare them here.)

    Obviously, if they're not iPhone users, they probably won't go this way, at least until the HomePod is released. But the integration with HomeKit is SO much better than Echo, that it may convince people to make the switch. If someone already has iPhones AND an Echo, I can't see a single reason to go with the Alexa integration rather than the Homekit one. It's just night and day better with HomeKit, at last for now. Basically, everything we've complained about with the Echo limitations is doable with HomeKit - most notably individual device control as well as a large set of relative-change commands.

    Amazon Echo:
    • Primarily designed to trigger scenes: "Alexa, turn on Goodnight"
    • With proper programming, toggling on or off a set of pre-designated lights is doable (lights only, not shades): "Alexa, turn on Outside Lights" or "Alexa, turn off Upstairs lights"
    • no support for raise/lower, brighten/dim, etc.

    Apple Homekit:
    • Supports full set of lighting commands, for individual lights and for rooms/areas
      • On/Off: i.e. "Turn on Living Room lights" (room) or "Turn on Living Room table lamp" (individual load)
      • Direct level commands: i.e. "Set Living Room lights to 60%" (whole room, or individual load)
      • Relative commands: This is where it gets really fun & interesting:
        • "Raise/Lower" or "Brighten/Dim": i.e. "Lower Kitchen Lights" (lowers each load in the room by 25 percentage points from current levels). "Raise {X**" raises specified room or load by 25%.
        • Modifier: "... a bit" or "... a little": i.e. "Raise Outside Lights a bit" (raises/lowers by 10% instead of default 25%)
        • Modifier: "... a lot": i.e. "Lower Family Room Lights a lot". (raises/lowers the load/room by 50% instead of default 25%)

      • Status query: i.e. "What's the status of the garage lights?" - responds "Your Garage Lights are off". (Oddly, I can't get homekit to respond with the dim percentage, it just reports on or off)

    • Supports full set of shade commands and status querying
      • Open/Close: i.e. "Close Breakfast Room Shades": sets shade to fully open or fully closed.
      • Raise/Lower: if no modifiers, works exactly as "open/close": i.e. "Lower Bedroom Shades"
      • Direct level commands: i.e. "Set bedroom shades to 45%": sets the exact level specified.
      • Relative level commands:
        • modifier: "... a bit" i.e. "Raise bedroom shades a bit" (raises/lowers by 25 percentage points"
        • modifier: "... a little bit" or "a tiny bit" (raises/lowers by 10 percentage points)
        • modifier: "... a lot" (raises/lowers by 50 percentage points)

      • Status query: i.e. "What is the status of the guest room shade?" - responds "Your Guest Room Shade is at 45%". (oddly, lighting queries will always only report on or off, but shade queries will properly report the exact percentage they are open to.

    • Supports natural chaining of commands
      • i.e. "Set guest room shade to 50%", (let action complete), then say something like "Make it 70%" or "lower it a little more". The system will know you're still referring to the guest room shade without having to name it again. Very cool, and much more natural.

    Basically, the HomeKit integration with RadioRa2 gives your customer very flexible, natural voice control. Echo integration is severely limited, at least with the current implementation.

    If anyone has done the full Google Home integration, would love to hear how it compares with HomeKit.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    I've been using Amazon Echo devices via Homeseer for quite a while, and there's plenty of support for setting levels.

    That and they've actually been shipping, without being stuck using a phone/tablet for the control.

    I have a google home unit but don't use it (an advertising company is not really who I want interacting in my home).

    Music source options seem to be easier to use via the Amazon devices.

    Apple hypes a lot, but delivers little.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Not really sure what that reply means. Putting in Homeseer in a customer's home is not really an option in most cases. Fine for your own hobbyist experimenting, but not for customer installations.

    As for your "Apple hypes a lot but delivers little", you're entitled to your opinion, but in terms of direct integration with Radio Ra systems (the topic being discussed here), it's just not correct. Apple Homekit is miles better (today) than Amazon in terms of getting customers what they want - simple voice control of their devices, reliably, with natural speech.

    I don't have a motivation to promote Apple. I put both systems into my own home to try them myself and be better able to describe the tradeoffs to my customers. While I may prefer Alexa for many tasks and queries, when it comes to Lutron integration and control, the HomeKit installation is much more advanced. I have no doubt that my customers would be incredibly frustrated with the crazy limitations of Echo voice control as it sits today, and they'll be very happy with Homekit control if they have Apple devices. Your customers may be different, but if shown both systems, I highly doubt anyone would feel the Amazon system is better, easier, more complete, or more natural to use.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Ignoring the reality of completely hands-free interfacing, of course. Conveniently just vaporware from apple. That and being limited to only their ecosystem for add-ons and media.

    As for customers, educating them (presumably during the sales qualification process) works wonders for matching up expectations with what an integrator can deliver. Know your tools and how to sell them.

    Likewise, "much more advanced" is laughable when serious home automation is being considered. All of these have miles to go on that front.

  6. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Why do you say Homekit doesn't work "completely hands free"? Works exactly the same as Alexa, assuming any iphone, ipad, or mac is nearby. Just say "hey siri... " instead of "alexa...". Both are completely hands free. You no longer have to invoke siri with a button press, so there's really no difference on that side. You may be thinking several iOS rev's ago when you had to press and hold the home button to get Siri to listen. Not the case anymore.

    As for my "much more advanced"... it's a relative term. Look at the examples I gave on what's possible today. I'd say that in my home the HomeKit installation is definitely much more advanced than the Alexa integration. You may have a far more advanced voice control setup - that's great, and I'm sure all of us would love to learn the details. I was just comparing the two systems I have access to.

    I understand you're not an Apple fan. I just posted the info for others who may want to know what they can offer customers today in terms of voice control of their RadioRa system. I wanted Echo to be my main interface... still do, but for some reason between Amazon and Lutron, it's very limited.

  7. #6
    I completely agree with you @joshg. To top it off with having so much more in depth control with homekit, I love the homekit app that I can quickly go to and manually turn loads on or off. Sadly to say it work a lot faster than lutrons version of the app. The app launches into the home interface with only "favorite" scenes or loads shown in a scrolling bar section near the top. This is very annoying. This of course works in my favor that I have my whole house full of apple products. The other poster who said that home kit is not "handsfree", not only can u just say hey siri now, but apple is working on its own version of a standalone whole house speaker that will soon come out. Cant wait for that one.

  8. #7
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Homekit integration has been awesome and the response speed is impressive. One thing I can't seem to figure out is initiating Lutron RadioRA2 scenes from HomeKit. I can create scenes from HomeKit but when there's multiple zones, the lights don't turn on/off synchronized like they do when I initiate a scene directly from RadioRA2.

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