Is Alexa taking over the Smart Home?

2 minute read

Amazon is betting big on Alexa to take over the Smart Home. On Thursday, Amazon held a hardware event and subsequently announced several enhancements for device manufacturers to integrate with Alexa.

With eleven new Echo products being released next month, it’s pretty apparent that Amazon wants to be front and center in your life 24 hours a day.

While most of the releases are upgrades to things like speakers, screens and microphones, there are a few heavy hitters in the realm of interoperability and communication that are worth noting.

ZigBee

Amazon is going all in with ZigBee. The new Echo Plus has a ZigBee radio and is encouraging device manufacturers to integrate with Echo using ZigBee. This integration is perfect for having a single ecosystem in which to control lights, garage doors, door locks, thermostats and a variety of sensors. While I am definitely more of a fan of Z-Wave, ZigBees’ security and Open Source nature were not doubt huge drivers in Amazons’ decision to back Zigbee.

This is big news for the Smart Home Space, and essentially knocks out the need to purchase an additional Smart Hub, such as Vera or Wink.

I’ve written before that I’m not a huge fan of ZigBee. It sits in the middle between Z-Wave and HomeKit in my opinion. I like that it is a secure open mesh network. I do not like, however, that it sits in the 2.4GHz band. The last thing I want is for my lighting and door controls to interfere with my Apple TV, but perhaps more Wi-Fi devices will support the 5GHz soon and this will be a moot point.

In other bad news, it appears that Leviton, makers of my favorite Z-Wave light switch, do not yet make a ZigBee model.

Microwave

I’m not kidding but wish that I was.

Smart Home Skill API

Amazon is updating the Smart Home Skill API to allow developers take advantage of Alexa’s native voice user interface. The biggest benefit for the consumer will be easier, more natural, interactions with Alexa. You will essentially be able to say “Alexa, do something” instead of “Alexa, ask some skill to do something”.

Alexa Connect Kit

Another barrier to entry to integrating with Alexa was the complicated nature of integrating with Skills, and managing cloud services. The new Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) is designed to make this process easier for manufacturers to integrate, by leaving some of this work to Amazon.