#005 — Amazon and the Smart Home

Amazon missed out on smartphones. They aren’t going to miss out on connected smart home appliances. They are churning out Internet connected hardware products at a phenomenal rate.

In this post, I am simply trying to list down the different directions in which Amazon is pushing the connected products landscape forward.

List of Amazon’s connected smart home products

I think this is a pretty comprehensive list. It’ll be interesting to see how this looks this time next year. Note that not all are Alexa enabled devices, but almost all are.

  1. Cloud Cam
  2. Echo
  3. Echo Dot
  4. Echo Plus
  5. Echo Buttons
  6. Tap
  7. Echo Show
  8. Echo Look
  9. Echo Spot
  10. Dash Button
  11. Dash Wand
  12. Fire TV
  13. Fire Stick

Note that I don’t mention the versions of the devices. Some of the above are more than a version old.

In contrast, Google has —

  1. Home
  2. Home Mini
  3. Chromecast
  4. Chromecast Audio
  5. Nest Thermostat
  6. Nest Cameras
  7. Nest Doorbell
  8. Nest Alarm System
  9. Nest Smoke Detector
  10. Google Wi-Fi

and Apple —

  1. Apple TV
  2. HomePod
  3. Airport Express

Amazon has the same number of devices as Google and Apple combined.


Software

Amazon, courtesy of also being AWS, will have the lowest cost for the “server” or “cloud” backend of connected devices.They have the talent, the breadth in services and the sheer scale to outperform and underprice their competition.

Having said that, their software quality isn’t at par with most. The Alexa app is extremely slow and cubersome for something with millions of users.

But the nature of connected products is such that you don’t have to ship a perfect or feature-complete product. As long as your software updates work, you are better off shipping as fast as possible (Apple would probably disagree with this though).

Marketing

Amazon, unlike Google and Apple, does not believe in launch events. They create a product page on Amazon.com, maybe write a blog post and that’s pretty much it. Which is quite interesting, given that Apple and Google have these grandiose October events.

Developers

Amazon has something for all kinds of developers in the connected smart home world.

Alexa Voice Service

Developers can use Alexa Skills to create interactive voice apps. A subset of these can control connected appliances using the Smart Home Skill API. 
Hardware developers on the other hand can use the Alexa Voice Service SDK to create Alexa-enabled devices.

Works With Amazon Alexa

This initiative by Amazon will certify your smart home products to ensure that customers have an intuitive experience. This is only applicable if you intend to sell your products on Amazon.com
Some parallels could be drawn between this initiative and the HomeKit program by Apple.

Gadgets

Alexa Gadgets are accessories which connect to Alexa-enabled devices. One can create a device which will act as an Alexa Gadget or use the Gadget Skills API in their Alexa Skill to add a physical dimension to their voice app.
This is especially interesting because all Echo devices have Bluetooth, and some of the newer one’s even have a Zigbee radio on board. Amazon is hoping to be the hub/gateway for all these non-IP wireless radio protocols.


Amazon is pushing all the right buttons, and then some. Rumour has it that they have over 5000 people working on Alexa and related activities. Interesting times lie ahead of us :)