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NextMarket Report: A Touchscreen Echo, Uber for Appliances, Smart Home Insider Survey, More

Mike Wolf Amazon appliances Echo Electrolux

As we enter the last month of the year, most consumer tech companies are focused on preparing for CES. If you're Amazon, you're busy readying a new Echo. 

There was a report this week Amazon might debut a new touchscreen enabled device in Q1 of next year.  While some believe it could be a kitchen optimized device, I think the implications and potential are bigger. You can read my initial thoughts on a touchscreen Echo here

Beyond this week's article, I also have been thinking a lot about what it means to be an Alexa hardware partner. At this point, most consumer technology companies making a connected consumer product view it as a must-have integration. It's a feature most want on their packaging.

But what is the product manufacturer giving up? While Amazon's efforts are focused on the interface and they continue to leave end-devices - whether those are kitchen appliances or home systems - alone, I would suggest that the point of interaction is where most value and consumer loyalty is derived. Consumer data and understanding, calls to action, monetization around commerce - this is the value layer Amazon has its focus on. 

We'll be exploring this further in the coming months, At the very least, I would at least suggest companies creating consumer platforms consider their Alexa strategies carefully. 

If you're interested in the professional install channel, you'll want to check out the latest Smart Home Show. I talk to Jason Griffing of HomeTech.FM about his new education venture targeted towards home installation professionals. As always, you can find the Smart Home Show in your favorite podcast app. 

Lastly, I'm working on some year end wrap ups and want to get some input from my readers. What do you think was the big story of 2016? What are you thinking about for 2017? If you want to participate in my smart home insider's survey, I'd appreciate it. I'll be writing about the results later this month and those who fill out the survey will be the first to get the results. 

As always, if you haven't subscribed to our new newsletter on the future of the connected kitchen, you can do that here

Analyzing Amazon's Rumored Touchscreen-Enabled Echo

If you thought the Amazon Echo rumor mill was done for 2016, you're wrong.

That's because word of a new Amazon Echo with a 7" touchscreen has surfaced, which is an interesting potential development given how focused the company has been on the voice interface.

I wrote about the rumored device over at The Spoon, focusing on the early indications this device might be a kitchen-focused Echo. For those who have been following Amazon's digital home machinations for a while, you'll remember that last year there was a rumored "kitchen computer" project called Project Kabinet. My guess is this is the evolution of that concept.

But let's step back and ask why would Amazon include a touch screen on an Echo device. After all, if Amazon believes voice is the interface of the future, why include something like an old-fashioned touch screen? Read More

In other news:

Electrolux Working on Uber for Appliances

I wrote recently about the appliance-as-a-service trend I see gaining momentum earlier this month. As it turns out, appliances might also become part of the sharing economy. 

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Electrolux is exploring the idea of creating an Uber-like model for its smart appliances where neighbors could make their laundry systems available for use by others.  Makes sense in a way since laundromats are about as antiquated as the taxi model and home appliances like washing machines are capital intensive investments.  That said, I'm a little skeptical about folks opening up their homes to let people do laundry, but as we've seen with Uber, there's a generational shift happening around ownership that could lend itself to increasingly interesting ways for consumers to defray costs and allow others access to assets they couldn't otherwise pay for.

Is the Force Band The Return Of Smart Home Gesture Control (Or Just The Jedi)?

This one is fun, but also interesting:

Sphero, which makes some really cool and fun home robots (we have two at our house), just released a new wrist-control wearable that lets you control the BB-8 Sphero robot (basically a remote-controled robot ball).  

But what makes this more interesting is now the new gesture control wearable is connected to IFTTT, which means you can use it to do things like turn on our lights and start your coffee maker.

I have been down on gesture control for the home for a while now, in part because it seems early experiments haven't taken hold and the fact gesture control is more prone to goof-ups than voice. That said, I'm intrigued to see if this device gets traction among smart home hobbyists as a makeshift home control wearable 

We'll keep an eye on it in 2017. 

Again: Take our Survey

I am working on a 2016 wrapup and 2017 outlook and would like to get your input. If you have thoughts on the smart home and connected home market, please take our survey here.  I will publish the results later this month.  

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