There's more than one way to order your technology around, and even Windows users can get in on this fun. Here, I explore how you can have Cortana control your smart lights, as well as look at some of the advantages and disadvantages vs other systems like Siri.
In a previous article on Controlling Philips Hue with Siri, I explored how iOS (iPhone & iPad) users can use Siri, and Apple's 'HomeKit' system to control their smart lighting - in my case, Philips Hue.
Whilst this system works well, it doesn't give complete access to all the native Hue functionality, since Apple's HomeKit system essentially uses it's own chip inside a controller device, as opposed to accessing the Hue system in a more direct fashion.
Also in a previous article (Philips Hue PC Control), I looked at how third party apps can let Windows users control their Hue system. The app I used (Huetro), also boasts Cortana integration. This would allow any Windows 10 PC with a microphone to be used for voice control of Hue lighting, and I was keen to check it out.
I had mixed results. With Siri, you can issue the same command in various different ways, and it will work. Cortana is -in theory- capable of such a thing, but it seemed to me that Huetro had only implemented a basic set of rudimentary commands, that had to be spoken in just the right way.
So, I could say things like 'Lights On', but upon attempting to say things more naturally like 'Turn my master bedroom lights on', it failed, and defaulted to an internet search.
What I can do with Cortana and Huetro that I couldn't with Siri & HomeKit, is activate natively defined scenes. So, I can say 'Lights, Set Relax' - and Cortana would activate the Relax scene. Siri would only be able to do this if I duplicate the 'Relax' scene inside the Apple Home app.
Even this doesn't give the complete picture. Apple HomeKit scenes are of course capable of incorporating multiple devices from different systems into one. Therefore, activating it can potentially do a lot more than just turn lights on and off. The setup I have with Cortana is incapable of doing this. For that kind of functionality, I'd need a different third party app, or an app linked into some kind of broader Smart Home controller box.
Cortana's limitations here are partly down to the implementation of the third party app. If this were to be expanded to cover more voice commands I'm sure it could be made to work better. For now though there's clearly a difference in quality. Siri & HomeKit allows for more natural commands. Cortana & Hue allow for native Hue access.
A clear winner here? Probably Siri, by a nose, but then we haven't yet begun to explore devices like Amazon Echo. That's the next logical step for me - and when I get one, we'll try it out!