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Amazon Echo is taking a lead role in smart home ecosystem development

3/2/2016,
by Anna Umanenko, CMO
Amazon Echo in smart home ecosystem

 

Amazon Echo is a current leader of IoT smart home products. The reason is simple. Amazon makes upgrades to Echo’s skills on a regular basis and the functionality is expanding. Adding new features to the smart platform through third-party developer apps both for iOS and Android has empowered Echo to grow the number of its skills non-stop.

Why Amazon Echo is different

Echo is a virtual home assistant that interacts with a user and performs actions through its wireless speaker, Alexa. The main feature that makes Echo a standout from the rest of IoT smart home devices is the ability for a user to use voice commands to create actions. There is no longer need for a smartphone or an app to perform simple tasks. Interaction through voice is revolutionary in the way we use devices and gadgets at home.

Echo always stays connected and is available for use to anyone at home. Users are unrestricted by mobile phones because Echo is not tied to them. The device’s Bluetooth speaker is connected by Wi-Fi in order to perform voice command processing. The smart controller responds to the wake word, “Alexa”. Upon hearing it, the Echo gets ready to listen, capture and analyze the command.

Here’s how Alexa’s artificial intelligence reacts to human commands. Once Echo “wakes up” and hears the command, the device instantly records it and sends the audio for processing to Amazon. The audio data is analyzed and becomes a command which Echo performs right away. The history of voice commands a user gives is saved, helping Echo become smarter as time passes. The more information Echo perceives, the more efficient the device becomes in command interpretation, adapting to a user’s speech patterns, preferences and vocabulary.

Amazon Echo uses “far-field” voice recognition technology and has seven built-in microphones that distinguish a voice of an individual speaking, even if there is extra noise in the same room (such as the TV playing). The quality of sound delivered by Echo is excellent and it is distributed 360 degrees.

What skills does Amazon Echo support?

Since the launch of Echo, the smart home device has considerably changed and Echo has acquired quite a number of new skills that go beyond single developers to include large companies. At the beginning, the list of Alexa’s “natural” abilities consisted of weather forecasts, setting timers and alarms, creating a list of planned activities and a shopping list, and removing items that have already been purchased.

Currently Echo supports more than one hundred of “skills”. Now that Amazon has released the SDK for Echo to third parties, existing skills will be polished and the number of capabilities supported by this virtual assistant will continue to grow.

Echo is now actively supported by large smart home device manufacturers that produce IoT devices for home security, lighting systems, and Wi-Fi connected thermostats; they are joining the Amazon’s smart home ecosystem through direct device integration with Echo.

Some of the outstanding skills of Amazon Echo include:

  • Ordering from well-known service-providers (Uber, Spotify, Domino’s) for premium subscribers, where user accounts are connected to Echo through a mobile app.
  • Integration with the IFTTT automation service to find a lost smartphone through a voice command, so that Echo can make a call directly to a missing device.
  • Reading audiobooks and remembering where a vocal bookmark was previously created. Providing route recommendations on getting from home to another place and determining how much time the commute will take.
  • Connecting a Google calendar to the device to get information about the upcoming planned activities.
  • Supplying information on local businesses (e.g., places to eat) or live sports events coverage.
  • Controlling the lighting system of the home.
  • Changing the temperature in a room by providing a request to Echo (integration of thermostats).

 

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