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Amazon Echo was the elephant in the room this year at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). Amazon itself had no booth and no presence at the show. However, the Echo, Amazon’s cloud-connected, voice-activated artificial intelligence device was everywhere. Alexa is the voice of the Amazon Echo. The Echo was available in very limited quantities by invitation only early in 2015. It became widely available on June 23, 2015.
The Echo has an almost cult following because it is intelligent, personable, helpful and because it keeps getting better and better. See my review to understand a few things that the Echo can do and why I love it so much.
This year, home automation was one of the hottest areas at CES with several large companies vying for dominance. While Apple’s Home Kit and Samsung’s Smart Home devices made a small splash, it was Amazon that created a tidal wave.
Company after company announced they were now integrating their product with the Echo.
One of the biggest announcements was that Ford will now have Echo compatibility. You will be able to ask Alexa to start your car on a cold morning, or check fuel levels. Working with Wink, another home automation system that integrates with the Echo, you could also instruct Alexa to turn on the lights, turn up the heat, and open the garage door when you approach your home. Yes. It will work both from home and from the car. Pretty nifty!
Ooma Telo, the smart home phone system, will now integrate with the Echo. Just download the Echo Skill for Ooma and you can use Alexa to make calls and check voice mail. Imagine making a phone call without a phone and you have a sense of what the Ooma-Alexa integration can do.
Alarm.com who partners with companies like Lutron, Kwikset, Lift Master, and Schlage, is now offering Alexa-powered voice controls for its smart security systems.
Like Alarm.com, this subscription-based smart home platform is now offering complete integration with the Amazon Echo.
Big Ass Fans
Their new line of Haiku Home connected products including the Haiku smart ceiling fan will now have Amazon Echo integration. You will be able to control you fans and interior climate by communicating with Alexa.
Triby by Invoxia
This connected kitchen hub is one of the first products to boast native Alexa support with no Echo needed. The built-in Alexa will recognize different family members as they request music or ask questions.
The Vivint home system has everything including doorbell cameras, lighting controls, smoke protection, HD video recording, thermostats, and garage door control. Now the Amazon Echo will help you control it all.
TrackR is a quarter-sized device that you can attach to anything that you might misplace. TrackR will then help you find your lost object. With the Echo integration, you can simply ask Alexa where you left your keys or your backpack.
Zonoff is a smart home platform developer that licenses its product to many different partners. They announced that their platform will now be integrated with the Echo. This will include some big names like Staples Connect. The first CES announcement using Zonoff and Alexa was from:
HomeAdvisor provides and app that helps you connect with home repair technicians. With Echo integration you can simply ask Alexa to find you the right person for the repair job.
Some may think that Amazon’s takeover of the home automation world at CES this year was just a lucky fluke, but it reality, it was a well-planned coup. The massive third-party integration is due to the fact that Amazon has not only encouraged, but has also aided developers and device makers to build Alexa into their products. Last summer Amazon started the Alexa Fund, providing a $100 million in investments in startups and designers looking to incorporate Alexa. They also created tools to make it easy for developers to incorporate Alexa into their products. Amazon Voice Service (AVS) aids developers with this task and the Alexa Skills Kit is a full collection of APIs and tools that helps developers to create new features for the Echo and future Alexa-enabled devices. This eliminates the need for a company to spend money to develop its own speech-recognition system. They can simply tap into Amazon’s services.
There is no doubt that there will be a fight for the protocols and standards that are to propel the home automation of the future. Smart home standards will, no doubt, be product driven. Whatever protocol creates the best user experience will win the standards battle. This year’s CES announcements show that Amazon has already created an ecosystem that other companies will have to compete with. Apple, Samsung, Lowes, and others are, no doubt getting ready to fight back. This will be a confrontation that everyone interested in home automation will want to watch very closely.