Amazon Wants To Help Make Your Home Smart – Forbes
The best marketing is education. During a time when products and services are largely the same, educating your customers can differentiate your brand. One recent and exciting example comes from Amazon who has taken steps to offer in-home education to teach consumers how to make their home smart. A smart home is the result of having a central operating system, like the Amazon Echo “Alexa,” to act as the central hub of the house. An operating system is the software that supports a computer’s basic functions–running your other programs and applications. If a device can be linked to the Amazon Echo, the Echo can control or monitor it, and keep you involved. This means tapping into the internet of things, where anything with an on or off switch will be connected to a computer, and other devices. Since I enjoy our Echo, am interested in smart technology (efficiency and the elimination of waste), and I wrote a book about customer experience, needless to say I was curious. This weekend a consultant from the Amazon Smart Home group came to my house to tell me and my husband how to make our house smarter. Signing up was easy. We booked a few days in advance and it was free. The products discussed are not all Amazon products, but they are part of the larger Alexa family. Alexa has a role to play in the integration of these products into your home.
As it stands Google and Amazon are competing to be the first to win the voice activated revolution. So what is the obsession of dominance over the home voice activation market? And why the home? Well for starters, a mobile phone is generally put away or charging while at home. When I’m personally at home I’m carrying around a 15 pound baby. Or my hands are tied up in something else, like working (I work from home), cleaning, or cooking. My phone is synced up to my new mac, so if I get a call or a text I see it on my laptop. Giving me less of a reason to keep track of my phone while I’m home. My current use of Alexa is consistent but still somewhat limited to news and cooking questions.
My husband and I listen to the news or we listen to our local news station KQED on NPR. When we are cooking we might ask Alexa how many tablespoons in a quarter cup. Or if I’m trying to put the baby to sleep downstairs I will ask Alexa to play Spotify Rafi songs. But that’s the extent of it. However in the future our use of Alexa will be more than these basic functions. Alexa will act as the operating system of the house, controlling our TV, thermostat and even the lights.
Alexa’s smart home program can help us save money on energy, so lights are shut down when no one is in the room, and the thermostat senses when one of us is in a room and automatically heats our chilly Bay Area house to our liking. Today we have an August door lock and a Ring doorbell that chimes our phones and provides a security camera when someone comes to the door. All of our neighbors love these security tools because when packages are stolen, which they often are, we can share videos on a private social network. I enjoy how I can lock or unlock the door with my phone. With Amazon’s Alexa it is possible to turn on the lights downstairs when someone comes to the door automatically. One can imagine how all of our services and apps will be connected in the future. In fact there’s a website called IFTTT that helps you do just that.
Today’s lightbulbs now have hardware inside, actual computers – that can not only save energy by switching off if they sense you are not in the room, but they also offer a spectrum of 1,000 colors. The Amazon expert told us he likes to change the lights for Golden State Warriors basketball games. While these attributes might seem insignificant now, in the future one can imagine how your entire home will change with voice activated everything. It won’t be purely as an accessory such as altered bulb colors. What are the implications of a house that is technologically alive? You might remember the scene from the hit tv show Mr. Robot where a condo is hacked–the alarm is set off, the lights are blinking bright and every appliance goes bananas. In the future could someone truly hack our house?
While most of us aren’t worried about our home operating system is being hacked, we are curious about the voice activation market. It’s still very early. Most speech recognition software on the market today has only about 50-60 voice commands but for example in the car the Ford Sync there are 10,000 voice commands. But why hasn’t this made waves? Have you heard of the Ford Sync? Probably not. Some of you might have a “smart fridge” from Samsung, a fridge that takes pictures of what’s inside, has a touchscreen that lets you order groceries from the door suing a new app from master card, or plays tv or music that you’re playing on your other connected gadgets in your fridge. At CES this year, Samsung announced that the fridge was now voice activated, “Users can issue voice commands to learn the weather and time, add products to shopping lists and order groceries online, manage to-do-lists as well as calendar schedules, in addition to controlling various other apps.” Now with the Samsung family hub consumers can also can remotely start, control and turn off their ovens, as well as monitor their cooktop and range hood from their smartphone.
Amazon’s good neighborly behavior, offering an expert to come to your home, is a great marketing and customer experience tactic. Amazon is quickly building relationships with its smart home customers, and when it comes time to upgrade or add more features customers will choose Amazon over other brands because of that relationship. Relationships are built on mutual trust–they are built when one party continues to add value. Amazon is proving it’s capable of doing just that. Additionally, Amazon could upgrade us or add services to this now complimentary business. Clean energy initiatives in California are a huge market. How much energy is wasted because of an inefficient thermostat? We’ll see how they scale this program if demand for it grows.
Time will tell how the Amazon Smart Home team will speed up the adoption of smart home technologies, but it’s exciting to see this new step from Amazon.