CES reveals new items with Alexa built-in
Amazon and Google's voice assistants have dominated CES this year with devices that you can talk to, but Amazon's Alexa was most prevalent. Amazon have made it easy to add Alexa products by offering the assistant on a single chip - the Alexa Connect kit. Consequently, their applications have been faster to market.
A good example of Alexa's versatility is a new device from ShadeCraft, called Bloom. Bloom is a garden umbrella that can be controlled by voice commands. Users can ask Alexa to open or close the sunshade mechanically or play music via Bloom's speakers. But ShadeCraft wants to integrate Alexa completely so that the parasol behaves just like an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Voice commands such as ordering Amazon products or asking what the weather will be like could then be done from the patio as well as the living room.
Bloom was not the only example of Alexa integration at CES, there were many others. A pet bowl that feeds your pets at a certain time when you can't get home, an oven with built-in sensors to identify the food you are cooking, a dishwasher that tells you how long is left on the washing cycle, a robotic lawnmower that is controlled by Alexa and can check the last time the lawn was mowed and when it needs to be cut next, an electric piano on which you can use Alexa to play sing-a-long tunes and record what you are playing, and finally, smart glasses where Alexa gives you an audio guide of what is in front of you also featured at the.
Amazon free samples programme launched in the US
Amazon has started sending customers free samples of items they think they might like, based on their shopping behaviour. It is using machine learning and predictive analysis to send goods like coffee and dog food to customers who might want to try them. It's another feature of Amazon's advertising business, in which brands can pay Amazon to reach certain customers. It appears that Amazon opts customers automatically into the programme if they have ticked the box to send 'Marketing Information by post'. It is likely that frequent shoppers are more likely to be chosen as sample recipients, but there is no limit to any samples customers can get, and they don't need to be a Prime Member either.
Amazon to launch a streamed gaming service
Amazon is launching its own gaming service and is in contact with publishers to stream their titles on the platform. This not their first foray into gaming. The Twitch Prime platform provides users with free games every month and in 2017 they acquired a UK cloud gaming backend specialist called GameSparks. These gaming capabilities have now been integrated into the main Amazon technology architecture, providing them with the tools to build a direct-to-consumer service. Providing a gaming service is a natural extension of their Prime offering and can attract new subscribers who might come specifically for the games. Amazon's long-term aim is to go head-to-head with console-based gaming platforms and other big streaming media services.
Echo Auto pre-orders
Amazon confirmed this week that over 1 million people have pre-ordered its new auto gadget. Echo Auto connects to your car audio system and gives you access to Alexa so that you can get directions, access Audible books, shop online or play music. The device is still only available on pre-order with no set date for shipping, which makes it even more remarkable that so many have subscribed.
Amazon delivering packages to your garage
Thieves stealing packages from doorsteps has been a common problem for Amazon and any e-commerce based business. This week, Amazon launched a new initiative to make package delivery more secure.
This quarter, they will offer a service called Keys for Garage. Keys for Garage requires a Chamberlin myQ Smart Garage Hub, which will cost approx $80. This device will talk to your garage door opener so that it can be opened by a delivery person. Customers will now have a number of different choices for home delivery: keys for home, keys for garage and keys for car.
They are also making business delivery easier too as drivers will have smart key fobs that will allow them to drop off packages in commercial and residential areas where deliveries previously might have been left on a doorstep or unsafe location. Several hundred businesses have already signed on for Amazon Key for business.