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Amazon’s Alexa steals a march on Apple and Google

Echo-on-a-Chip may change the face of the smart home market

Among the plethora of new features launched by Amazon at its annual bash, one particular component has, according to the experts, the potential to change the future of the smart home market.

The feature in question, the Alexa Connect kit is effectively an Echo-on-a-chip. It will allow people to use their voice to control products fitted with this custom chip.

Amazon said that a number of companies, including the American blender specialist, Hamilton Breach as well as European giant Proctor and Gamble are already working the chipset into their products so that they can be controlled like an Echo assistant.

We’ve been surprised at how easy it is to use the Alexa Connect Kit to prototype devices and create Alexa commands with just a few lines of code.

- Scott Tidey: VP, Hamilton Breach Inc

With the Alexa Connect Kit, Amazon has without doubt stolen a march on Apple and Google. Both have tried and failed to produce a method of taking the Alexa system and drop it into a number of products.

Apple struggled for five years with its HomeKit system and even Apple, known for their innovation shows how difficult the reality is of achieving the dream.

There is still some way to go before it becomes widely available, but its very existence could push the extremely popular voice-command approach into the future. It means that device manufacturers will be able to add a valuable function without having to develop their own voice-command infrastructure.

And, experts believe, this could catapult the smart home into the potential that many have imagined for decades. One that doesn’t require endless apps and routers and compatible with a large number of products and protocols.

But despite the hype, there is still a long way to go to it becoming a reality. Right now, any manufacturer interested in adding voice control to their appliances and devices has to ‘register their interest’ in the Alexa Connect Kit ‘preview.’

The preview is currently little more than an online form asking for contact details and likely use of the Kit.

We will accept a limited number of applications to the Alexa Connect Kit to refine our offering and deliver new smart devices for customers. We encourage all device makers to register their interest by applying here.

- Press release: Amazon

Previously, Amazon had claimed the chipset was used in its new microwave. But experts suggest that Amazon actually took a white-label microwave and tried to work out how to add Alexa without a fundamental redesign. Instead, coming up with the idea of a separate chipset that it can slot in.

At the moment Amazon has not provided much detail about the Kit. But whether in the theory stage or actual reality it represents a significant next-step in the smart home, moving ever closer to the genuine connected world.

Image: GAO.gov

By:

A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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