Today, GE announced its latest LED table lamp featuring Amazon Alexa. It’s only the beginning for the smart home of the future, according to Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home.
1. Where is the future of the “smart” home heading?
At Amazon in particular, we believe that voice is the future of home automation and will fundamentally improve the way people will interact with technology. Voice enables unbelievably simple interactions - for example, playing a song on demand is as seamless with Alexa as is turning on/off your living room light from your kitchen while you are doing the dishes. Now, the smart home is not just limited to connected devices, but any voice-enabled actions that make life at home easier - whether that’s the ability to request a ride to work, ask for your daily news brief or inquire about the traffic on your normal commute as you get ready.
2. Is the connected home “finally” going mainstream or when will that happen?
Smart home has had many iterations over the years, and with the introduction of Alexa and hands-free voice in the home, we think customers are seeing now - more than ever- that smart home is simpler than many once thought.
For a long time, you had to unlock your phone, open up an app and press a button within that app just to turn on a connected device. At that point you might as well just have gotten off the couch and flipped the switch yourself. And more often than not, you may have been controlling those devices through multiple apps. With the introduction of Alexa and voice into the smart home, that’s changed. Now you can just ask Alexa to turn on your lights, lock your door, turn down your thermostat, or order you a ride to work.
In terms of Alexa and the smart home, we still consider ourselves at day one, but we’re excited by the early response from smart home device manufacturers and developers building skills for Alexa and integrating Alexa onto their products.
3. What are the biggest impacts connected devices like Alexa and Echo, or connected home products in general, are having on lives?
Not only can consumers experience the convenience of being able to perform smart home tasks by simply using their voice, we’ve also seen Alexa have a significant impact for visually impaired or elderly customers. We’ve had many customers write in expressing their gratitude toward Alexa for enabling a newfound independence now that they have the ability to control their environments through voice.
There are plenty of options available for consumers who are just getting started.
At Amazon we’re trying to make it easy for anyone looking to turn their home into a smart home by using Alexa to control lights, thermostats, locks, fans, sprinklers and more. If you’re doing it on your own, all you have to do is pick the scenarios you want and go to the Amazon Smart Home store to find those products that integrate with Alexa.
If you have a service provider like Vivint or Alarm.com, they can even help install an Alexa enabled smart home system that addresses scenarios that you choose. As consumers look to have a more sophisticated smart home solution, we are working very closely with a nationwide association of dealers and installers called CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) to enable them with training and support.
5. What is the Alexa Voice Service and how is GE using it in their table lamp?
The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is free set of APIs that allows developers to add Alexa to their devices—any device with a speaker, a microphone, and an Internet connection can integrate Alexa with just a few lines of code.
GE’s latest connected lighting uses AVS to integrate Alexa into a contemporary LED table lamp, so not only will you be able to efficiently illuminate a room, but you will be able to access the same skills you’d find on Amazon Echo or Echo Dot without needing a stand-alone Echo device.
The new compact table lamp will have a speaker and microphones to enable the same great Alexa experience you get with Alexa-enabled Amazon devices. Homeowners will just need to plug in the lamp, connect to Alexa (via the Alexa app) and from there they’ll be able to leverage voice-activated features such as having Alexa read the latest headlines, control other connected devices, play music and more.
In general, the introduction of voice has enabled unbelievably simple interactions in the home, and we believe that once consumers experience the joy of turning out a light simply by “asking” Alexa, they’ll be even more encouraged to try other smart home features.
(Top image: A prototype of the GE LED Lamp featuring Amazon Alexa.)
Charlie Kindel is Director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home.
All views expressed are those of the author.