I’ve been writing about Amazon’s smart home aspirations for the past year, and while the Fire TV was my initial favorite for a smart home control interface, this past week’s news of an SDK for the Amazon Echo has pushed the music streamer to the top of my list as Amazon’s entry point into the smart home.
Not that my original expectations that the FireTV as smart home controller were wrong, mind you, since sources within Amazon and would-be partners told me Bezos himself decided to pull back on the smart home capabilities of the first-gen Fire TV. And now, while I expect the Fire TV to incorporate some smart home smarts eventually, the Echo, with its voice control capabilities, makes perfect sense as a smart home control interface. Add in both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and its easy for me to imagine services targeted at, say, security or aging-in-place built with an Amazon Echo as a core component.
The lazy analyst in all of us also points to the obviousness of commerce capabilities enabled by an Echo, but even lazy analysts get some things right. I can see lots of possibilities for new apps enabled by an SDK, both for consumables and other house-specific purchases, with an Echo. However, an SDK combined with Amazon could put the company in the driver’s seat when it comes to selling consumer services, whether those services are for entertainment content or for home-specific tasks. Imagine for a second a task marketplace like Taskrabbit integrated with the Amazon Echo: “Echo, please send over a plumber and order me some Drano while you’re at it."
Amazon’s had a mixed record of technology product development, and outside of the Kindle hasn’t shown the ability to create a market leader in any device consumer device category. That said, the smart home is still fairly wide open and there will be many different doors into our lives - security, health, commerce, entertainment - through which a company enters the smart home. As the leading online retailer and the dominant way many of us - myself included - get pretty much every physical product delivered to our homes, Amazon is smart to invest in developing in the white space of voice command interfaces for the home, especially before Apple brings Siri into our homes as connected home command interface via HomeKit.