Faucets Get Their Voice
Digital voice assistants have made their way into just about every aspect of the smart home, bringing with them the promise of a more efficient and seamless in-home experience. Consumers today can ask Alexa, Google, or Siri to turn their lights on or off, lock the doors, arm the security system, add something to their grocery order, control their entertainment, preheat the oven, check the washer or dryer status, and more. And now, with innovations from a few home appliance brands, the kitchen faucet is getting in on the voice control game.
Introduced earlier this year, Kohler is set to launch their Sensate faucet with Kohler Konnect support, bringing voice command right to the kitchen sink. The line ranges in price from $875 to just over $1,100, which seems like a steep price for a connected faucet, but it actually falls right in line with Kohler’s other Sensate contactless faucets. So, the added bonus of voice control is essentially thrown in with their new faucets, which come in four different finishes: oil-rubbed bronze, matte black, vibrant stainless, and polished chrome.
What consumers get with the voice-activated faucets is the ability to ask their digital assistant of choice to dispense water, stop the flow of water, and request specific amounts of water. The Kohler Sensate faucet, for example, can fulfill requests for specific amounts of water in ounces, cups, milliliters, quarts, liters, or gallons. You can also set up customized phrases through the Kohler Konnect app so that the faucet knows when you ask it to “fill the spaghetti pot” that it needs to dispense six cups of water.
Kohler's Sensate faucet | Credit: Kohler
Kohler’s smart faucet and connected app will also monitor water flow for the user and actually alert them when an unusual flow (i.e. potential leak) is detected. You can also track your water consumption in daily, weekly, monthly, and annual intervals, and average run time.
As with any technology-related item, though, connected faucets of course are going to face some challenges. With this space being essentially brand new, we’ll consider these growing pains that the industry will work through, but they’re certainly worth walking through as you present these options to potential customers.
For one, these faucets need dedicated power supplies. Kohler—and Delta with their Touch20 VoiceIQ-ready faucets—recommends keeping the faucet plugged into a non-switch-controllable outlet. The electronic components inside the faucets that make things like voice control and contactless sensors work need constant power, so forget about tying them into the same line as the garbage disposal.
Additionally, the voice control interface is somewhat lackluster right now. As a CNET review of the Kohler Sensate faucet pointed out, the service requires consumers to ask Alexa to ask Kohler to turn the faucet on, for example. The same goes with Delta. The lack of native support feels a bit clunky, but it’s hard to imagine that Google and Amazon aren’t already working on getting this fixed. Apple does provide native support for the Kohler Sensate faucet as a HomeKit compatible device, so you’re able to just ask Siri to interact with the faucet. However, Apple doesn’t have support right now for measured amounts of water—you’re only able to turn the faucet on and off. And speaking of measurements, the CNET review uncovered that the Kohler Sensate faucet isn’t able to accept fraction amounts quite yet. So, instead of asking for one-and-a-half cups of water, you’re going to have to ask for 12 ounces. Delta’s VoiceIQ can take fraction requests.
One last, minor challenge is the faucet handle itself. For these contactless systems to work, the handle needs to be in the “on” position at all times. You turn the faucet on, wave your hand to stop the flow of water, and you’re good to go—until someone in the home inevitably turns the faucet off and you’re left making empty voice commands.
What’s encouraging with this new smart faucet space, though, is that all of them look simply gorgeous when installed in the home. There’s absolutely no hint that these products are so well connected from a tech perspective, which is exactly why they’re going to appeal to the growing population of smart home hungry consumers. There are certainly some wrinkles in the technology that need to be ironed out. But with these app-connected devices, that’s as simple as pushing a firmware update through, which could happen any day.