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Smart Home

Kohler smart faucet brings voice commands to the kitchen sink

Ask your Kohler Sensate faucet to turn on the water, dispense 1 cup or fill your coffee pot. The kitchen sink just got smarter.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

There's a smart version of nearly every large appliance in your home. But what about your kitchen sink? That's coming online, too, with Kohler's Sensate Faucet. Starting at $875, this kitchen faucet pairs with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple's Siri for voice control. While it's a big step forward for the smart kitchen -- and a big expense for most of us -- Kohler's faucet isn't quite as impressive as I'd hoped. I'd advise waiting for future updates or additional options from competitors before spending a lot of money on this smart faucet. 

Design and installation

Kohler's Sensate faucet with voice control ranges from $875 to $1,100 depending on finish. While that is expensive, it's important to note that Kohler's standard version of this faucet without any voice control also falls within that price range, so adding smarts doesn't really cost you more. 

Kohler sent me the oil-rubbed bronze finish to review, but the Sensate is also available in polished chrome, vibrant stainless and matte black. The single-hole design takes up little space on your countertop and the pull-down nozzle helps the faucet reach every corner of your sink. You can control the faucet with motion by waving your hand beneath the arch to turn it on or off. You can also use the physical handle or a voice assistant. 

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Installation is similar to most regular kitchen faucets, except for required electrical power. You'll need a dedicated outlet or a switch that can be on all the time in order to power the motion sensing and smart components. If there isn't wiring readily available near your sink already, you'll need to factor that into your budget and installation plan. I suspect most people will want to call a plumber to help install it.

Voice control

Once your faucet is installed, you'll need to download the Kohler Konnect app and create an account if you don't have one already. Instructions differ for each operating system, but the app and corresponding smarts work with both iOS and Android devices. Follow the directions that come in the box to link that account with your voice assistant of choice, and you're ready to go. 

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When you're ready to use voice commands, you'll need to physically pull the handle into the on position, then stop the water flow with your hand in order for the faucet to work with voice commands. That makes sense from a power standpoint -- it's like how you need to leave your light switch in the on position to control smart bulbs. As with smart lighting, it might be difficult to keep the faucet configured properly in a home where multiple people use the sink every day. That has the potential to take away from the convenience of voice commands.

Voice control in my testing was responsive enough, but Kohler requires you to tell either Alexa or Google Assistant to "Ask Kohler" before each command, as in, "Hey, Alexa, ask Kohler to turn on the faucet." That lack of native control makes the Sensate faucet seem just a bit behind the times. Kohler isn't the only one doing this, though. Delta's upcoming VoiceIQ faucet module also uses an "Ask Delta" middleman. It likely won't be long before Amazon and Google add native support for sink controls as they have done with large appliances and other categories. When that happens, the additional step should go away, but for now it feels clumsy.   

Chris Monroe/CNET

There's also no temperature control via voice, so the faucet dispenses water at the temperature indicated by the handle's position. Voice-controlled measurements must be between 8 ounces and 6 gallons, and the faucet will shut off automatically after 4 minutes. 

You can ask for water in ounces, cups, milliliters, quarts, liters or gallons, and the Sensate faucet dispenses the appropriate amount with accuracy, but it's not really that simple. You can't ask for fractions, so if you need 1.5 cups, you'll need to ask for 12 ounces. Kohler tells me fraction compatibility is planned for future updates, but it isn't available now. I hope the company comes through on that front, because the convenience factor of the Sensate largely disappears if I still have to do mental math to convert measurements before asking for something.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Voice commands with Siri are remarkably different from the Google and Alexa experience. Using Apple's voice assistant you can only turn the faucet on or off -- you can't ask for measurements. However, those commands don't require the "Ask Kohler" middleman, since the faucet is set up as a HomeKit device, not just a linked account. While you can turn the faucet on and off from your Home app, you won't be able to add the faucet to any scenes

Kohler Konnect app

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The Kohler Konnect app is your home base for controlling your faucet, seeing water consumption and customizing voice commands. It's the same app that connects Kohler's Verdera Voice lighted smart mirror

You can create and name presets called "experiences" in the Kohler Konnect app. Those experiences are customized voice commands. For example, you can name an experience "coffeepot" and set it to 8 cups.  

You'll still need to ask your assistant to ask Kohler to start the experience. For me, that meant saying, "Hey, Google, ask Kohler to start the coffeepot." The Sensate filled the pot dutifully with 8 cups of water. 

The Kohler Konnect app also shows your water consumption in a chart and it can alert you if the faucet senses a leak or water flow issue. You can see consumption in daily, weekly, monthly and annual intervals via graphs, as well as average runtime. This is also where you can set your preferred measurement system, metric or standard. 

Conclusion

Yes, Kohler's Sensate faucet is expensive. It has quirks and wrinkles to iron out. I don't think I'd recommend it to most people right now, unless they were already planning to spend $800 to $1,200 on a new kitchen faucet. If you're already in that deep, then sure, the extra smarts are entertaining. I can also imagine it benefiting someone with a disability. 

Motion-controlled faucets aren't a new thing, but the voice control aspect adds a whole new way to interact with your kitchen sink. It might be imperfect, but it feels like a real step forward for the smart home. At a more affordable price, and with more natural voice commands, the smart faucet concept might one day feel like a real convenience. For now, it's more like an expensive novelty.