Having been ignored by the general public for a number of years, advances in smart home technology now seem to be gradually establishing themselves. Amazon’s vocal assistant ‘Alexa’ is gaining in popularity, with more and more brands integrating it into their connected systems. The market is in its infancy, however, and there will be plenty of competition.
Is the concept of the connected home finally about to catch on? At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA, Amazon seemed to steal a march on its competitors in terms of connected assistants. Householders can now "talk" to their LG refrigerator to see what is inside and what needs to go on the shopping list, and this is all thanks to Amazon technology which goes by the name of Alexa.
This innovation is also being integrated into Huawei’s new flagship smartphone, three Tongfang Global Ltd models of television, and even Ford cars, who have announced their intention to use it as part of their on-board electronics system
Open to developers of external applications
Alexa was first seen as part of Amazon’s Echo range of connected voice-activated speakers, which can respond to questions, provide up-to-date news and weather, and even control other connected objects around the home – the kind of technology which, up until recently, was merely seen as grounds for curiosity.
Amazon claims to have sold "millions" of them, however, with peak purchasing time being around the holiday season. The technology has also been expanded, with the system being opened up to developers of external applications.
Listen to music, have food delivered, book a journey
Alexa can now be used to listen to music, have meals delivered and book an Uber as well as switching off a light or a coffee machine, turning it into a veritable command centre for smart homes.
The smart home has long been touted as the next leap forward in terms of technology. "There was an ecosystem that needed to be put in place," technology sector expert Ben Thompson wrote in his blog ‘Stratechery’. "More and more 'smart' objects, from light bulbs to switches, were coming onto the market, but almost every company that was trying to position itself at the heart of the connected home was basing its technology on the smartphone."
Awesome news from CES. "Amazon is winning CES without even showing up" https://t.co/m6FaMpDOfI— Amazon Echo (@amazonecho) January 4, 2017
Competition is hotting up
Thompson believes that Alexa is well positioned to become the heart of home hubs, despite fierce competition. Google uses its own assistant on Android smartphones, a messaging application (Allo), and a recently-launched rival technology to Echo called Google Home.
Microsoft assistant Cortana, meanwhile, was chosen by Mattel for a voice-activated assistant for children and their parents, as well as for connected cars manufactured by Renault-Nissan and BMW. There is also the Apple Home Kit, which uses the iPhone vocal assistant Siri.
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