Smart home assistants need smarter timers. Nowadays, you can use Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to configure the timers. You can use the three smart assistants to control the gadgets of your smart home. But frustratingly, you can not use the two functions together: it is impossible to set the lights to turn off arbitrarily in 30 minutes with today's most advanced and sophisticated smart home technology.
Now, you can use a preprogrammed routine, but that's not the same thing. You can turn on the lights when you turn off a motion detector, have your motorized curtains close at dusk or have your air conditioner turn on exactly at 12:53 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. But with the three smart home platforms, you need to set up those routines in advance, they're not the kind of things you can attach to a timer.
And what's more important, they're not the kind of things you can do with voice commands: you have to go to a complementary application and configure them, which means knowing in advance what you want to activate and deactivate and when. I want it to happen. And if you have to enter an application to use a voice assistant correctly, something in that process is not working well.
As far as I can tell, there is no technical reason why all these systems do not allow it and, however, can not do it. And yes, natural language processing is incredibly complicated, but I do not think that's the problem: smart assistants explicitly say that the software does not allow it. Siri, for example, responds by responding that he can not program commands. That means that someone at Apple knew that a user might want to do this, and then it was specifically encoded in an answer to say that you can not. The problem does not seem to be understanding.
In addition, you can configure a timer like this for part of a function: the three companies offer a specific shutdown timer to listen to music, apparently for when you fall asleep. But the end result is that you can ask Alexa or Siri to play music or play audio to a timer, and turn it off when that time ends. It's great! I wish I could do it with my lights, my TV, my fan, my air conditioning and all the other devices connected to the settings of my smart home, too.
Shutdown timers are not a new technology either. Appliances, such as televisions and air conditioners, have had them for decades, leading to some strange configurations. For example, at home, I have an AC unit connected to an intelligent plug. The plug with Wi-Fi connection can turn on or off the AC from anywhere in the world, but is not smart enough to understand the idea of "running for two hours and then turn it off." The IR remote control that comes with the unit does. although it's fine, assuming I can find it.
None of this is the end of the world: I can remember most of the time to turn off my lights, or deal with the occasional nuisance of waking up to realize that the air conditioner is still working and that my room is an ice box. But it's yet another example of how, despite their intelligence, smart assistants can often fall short in small ways when it comes to really fitting into our lives.