Amazon Pushing Alexa Into Connected Home And Car

What Happened
Amazon has big plans for its voice-activated digital assistant Alexa. The company is seeking partnerships with smart home device makers such as Nucleus to build Alexa Voice Service into their products. This initiative is aimed at positioning Alexa as the central command hub for devices around the smart home space, even the hardware that isn’t made by Amazon. Beyond the home space, Amazon is also actively seeking to integrate Alexa into the connected car. The company has so far established partnerships with BMW and Ford to explore how Alexa can bring voice commands into cars and, in Ford’s case, bridge the gap between smart home and connected car.

What Brands Need To Do
Amazon’s vision of an intelligent assistant is set to push conversational interfaces into new spaces and further infiltrate consumers’ daily lives. In turn, it will give rise to more marketing opportunities for brands to reach customers in cars or at home with branded Alexa skills. As Amazon continues to push Alexa into the smart home and connected car, it is time that brands start working with developers to build branded Alexa skills.

The Lab has extensive experience with building Alexa skills and helping brands navigate the new realities that conversational interfaces are set to bring. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out and schedule a visit to the Lab. For additional information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, please check out the first section of our Outlook 2016.


Source: New York Times & The Verge


Alexa Connects To More Smart Home Devices

What Happened
Voice control is coming soon to more smart home devices as Amazon adds Smart Home Skill API to Alexa Skills Kit. This will make it easier for makers of smart home gadgets to integrate Amazon’s voice assistant with their products, allowing users to control those devices remotely via voice command. For now, Amazon’s API is limited to thermostats, lights, switches, and plugs. Last week, Alphabet-owned Nest integrated Alexa into its smart thermometers to allow users to adjust the temperature without lifting a finger.  

What Brands Need To Do
According to BI Intelligence estimates, connected-home device shipments will grow at a massive compound annual rate of 67% over the next five years and hit 1.8 billion units shipped in 2019. As the availability of smart home devices rapidly grows, they provide a valuable emerging platform for brands to connect with consumers at home. As Amazon and the developer community continue to build out Alexa’s capabilities and make it more brand-friendly, brands would be smart to get on board with those devices via integrations or partnerships.

For more information on how brands can develop authentic brand voices and navigate the new rules of discovery, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.


Source: ZDNet


Amazon Brings Automatic Reordering To More Connected Home Devices

What Happened
Following Whirlpool’s announcement at CES to incorporate Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) into its smart appliances, Amazon has announced today that a slew of connected devices have gained automatic reordering capability via DRS. The line-up includes select models of Brother printers, a GE washing machine, and the Gmate SMART blood glucose monitor, which will be able to reorder printing ink, detergent, and testing strips and lancets, respectively, when supply runs low.

What Brands Need To Do
Automatic reordering is a great tool for developing and maintaining consumer loyalty. Amazon’s DRS makes it easier for CPG brands to forge win-win partnerships with manufacturers of smart appliances so as to cultivate a long-term relationship with consumers that encourages habitual re-purchase.


Source: TechCrunch

AT&T Brings Voice Control To Smart Home

What Happened
AT&T has been offering its customers smart home solutions under its Digital Life service for over two years now. And earlier this week, the telecom giant announced that it has started working on a voice-activated digital assistant service to help you control your smart home devices on AT&T platform simply by talking. Dubbed “Digital Life Voice Assistant”, the new service, set for launch later this year aims to help users control their security alarm, connected lights, and more.

What Brands Need To Do
For brands seeking to enter the smart home space and get their message across via these connected home devices, now would be the time to start experimenting with this type of conversation-based user interfaces and developing their own brand voice. Moreover, as the smart home market begins to take off, a variety of platforms, including Apple’s HomeKit, Comcast’s XFINITY Home, and Samsung SmartThings, are now competing to become the central hub for all connected home devices. And in this war of hubs, brands need to choose their partner wisely so as to find the optimal platform for their brand messages.


Source: Engadget

CES 2016: Samsung’s Smart Fridge Ushers In A New Era For Home Appliances

On Tuesday, Samsung introduced a new “Family Hub Refrigerator” during its press conference at CES 2016. Easily the highlight of the event, the new smart fridge comes with a 21.5-inch touchscreen built in. It can display your family photos, show your calendars, and even has a TV-mirroring feature that can let you stream your Samsung TV content right to your fridge door. The fridge also comes with 3 cameras so you can remotely check your stockings inside via a smartphone app while you’re in the shopping aisles.

Moreover, the refrigerator also comes with a built-in function for grocery shopping. Working with MasterCard’s Groceries app, it will allow users to shop for groceries right on the touchscreen on its door, truly combining the connectivity of smart home devices with the convenience of ecommerce.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Header image courtesy of Samsung’s press release video.


Amazon Echo Pushes Into Traditional Retail Nationwide

What Happened
More than a year after its debut, Amazon Echo is finally coming to third-party physical retail stores for the first time. Amazon’s smart speaker will be available at Staples, The Home Depot, Sears, Fred Meyer and various other big box and electronics stores. Amazon plans to make it available in more than 3,000 retail locations across the U.S. in time for holiday shopping.

Market Impact
Making the Echo widely available in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores signals Amazon’s confidence in pushing its leading product in the smart home to the mass market. The expanded shelf presence in turn can help familiarize consumers with connected devices like Echo, propelling the smart home market forward.


Source: GeekWire

You Can Now Ask Siri To Lock Your Door (With New August Smart Locks)

What Happened
Soon you won’t need to bother getting up from your coach after binge-watching Netflix to lock your front door – you can just ask Siri to do it for you. August, maker of the first iPhone-controlled locks, recently announced a second-gen smart lock that is Apple HomeKit enabled through a new Broadcom chip, allowing iOS users to use Siri to lock and unlock the door remotely. Moreover, the San Francisco-based company also unveiled a new doorbell equipped with a video camera.

What Brands Need To Do
This new Siri-enabled smart lock is one of the new  examples of integrating voice command into connected home devices. Starting with Amazon’s smart speaker Echo launched last year, to Apple’s updated Apple TV with support for Siri, voice-activated command is quickly being integrated into everyday consumer products. This changes the way brands typically gets their messages delivered via visuals. Therefore, brands should consider developing a communication strategy for the audio-only platforms and explore building voice-powered experiences to reach consumers at home in the near future.


Source: Engadget

Nest Expands IoT Protocol To Third-Party Devices

What Happened
Earlier today, Google’s Nest Labs introduced a new device-to-device communications protocol called Nest Weave for its low-energy IoT protocol Thread, which was first announced in July. Initial launch partners include P&G, GE, Hunter Douglas, Philips Hue, iHome, and Lutron Electronics. Nest Weave, which can work without Wi-Fi, is a proprietary application protocol that Nest has been using within its own products. Now with this expansion, Nest Weave will use Thread to allow third-party devices to communicate with Nest products.

What Brands Need To Do
By extending the reach of its Nest devices to third-party devices, Google is looking to take the lead in the nascent market of connected home devices and create a holistic ecosystem that plays by its rules. Recently, some new connected home devices, exemplified by Amazon’s Echo, signal the vast possibility for brand integration in the smart home space. Therefore, brands looking to reach consumers at home should take advantage of this new IoT communication protocol, and start learning how to navigate a more unified and interoperable experience within the connected home.


Header image credit: promotional image from Nest

Source: VentureBeat

The Home Platform: Connectivity, Commerce, & Culture

In two weeks, Apple is expected to announce a new Apple TV set-top box, but this will be more impactful than just an upgrade to their “hobby”: the new device will serve as the cornerstone in Apple’s emerging IoT strategy. There’s a mounting battle for control of our homes, and entertainment plays to Apple’s home field advantage.

An Apple TV App Store will let a thousand streaming services bloom, and a new OTT slim channel bundle will debut in the spring. A key component of the entertainment platform will be a video-focused expansion of iAds, a turnkey solution for ads within any TV app, targeted using Apple’s rich user data. Entertainment will be the Trojan horse that gets Siri, HomeKit, and HandOff into our living rooms making the new Apple TV an always-listening hub, and providing a beachhead for connected devices within our homes.

After living with an Amazon Echo, I can attest to the significant appeal of an always-on voice interface. The Echo, and Alexa, are strong entry points into the home for Amazon, especially with an open API, and near-weekly updates to its capabailities. But because Amazon is operating largely outside the smartphone ecosystem, Alexa can’t send a text, or pause Netflix when someone calls — troublingly, she’s even disconnected from Amazon’s Fire TV. Apple and Google’s existing ecosystems will help, here, in ways that Amazon will struggle to match.

What Amazon does have, though, are millions of products, and Alexa can help you buy them. That’s convenient, but it belies Amazon’s even simpler vision for shopping, the Dash platform. Comprised of both a set of buttonsand an API, Dash allows you to purchase household staples with the tap of a button — a button which will eventually be subsumed into our devices directly, allowing them to re-order supplies as needed. It’s a critical component of our connected home which Amazon is uniquely positioned to deliver. But when coffee buys itself, brand loyalty takes on a whole new meaning, and CPG companies will need to spend mightily to acquire users up front, before a competitor becomes the default.

We also just gained some clarity into Google’s plans for the connected home. Despite having several TVproducts, as well as an entire line of home devices in Nest, Google has launched the OnHub wifi router, which also supports several connected home protocols. On is a new home brand for Google, with the Hub being the first product. With Nest providing ad-free, premium devices, On is free to experiment with lower cost options that are subsidized by advertising. It might work like Kindle Special Offers: pay full price, and use your network like any other, or have Google outfit your entire connected home at a discount, and allow On Hub to serve targeted ads based on the browsing behavior of each device on your network.

From fifty thousand feet, our admirals are moving their troops into position for the coming battle: Google wants to getting you and keeping you online, so the cornerstone of their home platform is a router. Amazon is tackling the home directly with the Echo, and through commerce with the Dash platform. And Apple, with a business built on taste and culture, is entering the home through entertainment. Notably absent is Microsoft, whose strategy whiplash with the Xbox One has left them without a foothold in the connected home, and Facebook, who will likely be content to ride Apple and Google’s coattails, at least for the time being.

With starting positions in connectivity, commerce, and culture, we’re about to witness a fierce battle to define the connected home, and, in a larger sense, what “home” itself will come to mean in the future.


A version of this story originally appeared on MediaPost IoT Daily.


Google Takes On Amazon Echo With Smart Router OnHub

What Happened
Earlier today, Google unveiled OnHub, a $200 Wi-Fi router that doubles as a smart home hub, Besides the standard wireless transmission protocols, OnHub also supports several smart home protocols, including Weave, Thread, as well as IEEE 802.15.4, the basis for Zigbee.

What Brands Should Do
While OnHub may seem like just a fancy router at first, it is without a doubt Google’s answer to the new wave of “communication hub” devices such as Amazon Echo and, reportedly, Apple TV. As more and more devices and appliances become connected, the need for a central control hub grow accordingly, which may provide brands with a new touch point to reach their audience and facilitate convenient interactions powered by voice command. Look for Google to go beyond the IoT protocols to make it easy to integrate your smart home devices and services soon.


Source: Ars Technica

Image courtesy of