When it comes to smart speakers, Amazon is still leading the competition. And it makes you wonder how they’re doing it. Especially since Google has a chance to really take that lead, so what does Amazon need to do? Let’s start by looking at the numbers. Right now, 32 percent of Americans own a smart speaker. While this number might seem low, it is a massive growth considering that Amazon released its first Echo only four years ago! Who are the people holding back? Customers who don’t want to talk to a machine, or don’t see a point in relation to voice assistants. Or, if you’re like my sister, you don’t trust that the company behind the speaker isn’t listening in 24/7.
That said, the competition is catching up. Google is currently ranked number two in smart speakers. So what is going to give the smart speaker manufacturer a leg up? Being able to connect your device to just about anything. And I mean, anything! Both Google and Amazon know that in order to get your business, they’re going to have to give you options about what you do that is voice activated. What does that mean? Having the ability to activate new appliances through Alexa. When I first discovered the ability to turn my lights on and off using Alexa, I was hooked. I mean, I walk into my house, after a long day at work and use the proper voice command to turn on my lights. In the past, I would have to do this manually. And while that might seem lazy, it gives me the ability to do things – hands free.
What we don’t know right now is how many more devices Alexa will be coming to. But, I can only imagine. That said, Amazon also plans to make Alexa more proactive and ambient. What does that mean? Your Alexa might offer friendly reminders to you. For example, if you tell Alexa “good night”, she might suggest that you lock the door. I mean, I certainly benefit from reminders, so I can see this as a beneficial addition.
In an effort to keep your home safe, when you’re gone, Amazon is considering another concept – Alexa Guard. If Alexa hears something after you’ve put her into “guard” mode – like a smoke alarm or the sound of shattering glass — she will send you a notification. If you’re an ADT or Ring subscriber, Alexa will also notify your home security monitoring service as well. Sure, turning my lights on or off is amazing, but being able to protect my home when I’m away is not only a neat feature, it’s amazing.
Amazon was very much present at CES, during which time they indicated that there are more than 28,000 smart home devices, from more than 4,500 brands that work with Alexa. This is up from over 20,000 and 3,500 since September. September! More than 150 products now have Alexa built in, including headphones, thermostats, PCs, cars and even light switches.
The key for Amazon, however, will be making sure that whatever devices they are bringing Alexa to they need to make sure that the devices are easy to set up. I think that a lot of people are unsure how Alexa works or what they need to do to make it work, and therefore shy away from looking into it further. All that said, 2019 stands to be a good year for Alexa, and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like.