Make new products Alexa-proof

10 April 2017Innovation & AI

This is the second part of our series “Alexa, the Voice of Holland.” In the previous article, we zoomed in on Amazon Echo, an intelligent speaker with voice assistant Alexa. We explained why 2017 is the year of voice-first devices. We also observed how Alexa is doing in Europe. In this article, our creative strategist Daantje van Gent explores the possibilities that Amazon Echo offers. What can Alexa do? And how will the market respond to these opportunities?

Let’s first consider how people are currently using Alexa. Research by Voicelab shows that nearly half of everyone with a voice-first device uses it to play music or audio books. About a third of owners use their device to control smart home gadgets or to activate games and entertainment. Finally, one in four lets Alexa (or Google Home) read the latest news and podcasts.

These numbers roughly correspond to the three types of Alexa Skills that Amazon defines:

  • Smart Home Skills: features that control smart home devices.
    Example: “Alexa, turn off the living room light.”
  • Flash Briefing Skills: features that let Alexa read content aloud.
    Example: “Alexa, what’s the news?”
  • Custom Skills: features that interact with third-party systems.
    Example: “Alexa, order me a pizza fungi at Domino’s.”

Alexa-integrated and -enabled products

Alexa Voice Service (AVS) allows you to integrate Alexa’s voice into existing products that carry a speaker, microphone, and internet connection. Besides these Alexa-integrated products, there are Alexa-enabled products. These smart home devices can communicate with Alexa without having her voice integrated into the product itself, thanks to a combination of AVS and the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Through an API, Alexa can control these devices. She can also use data from existing products and services.

Alexa in action

In the United States, we see a huge number of devices that have Alexa enabled or integrated. The result is a broad range of innovative user experiences. Let’s have a look at some examples.

Ford is integrating Alexa in all electric cars that leave its factories in 2017. From within the home, owners of an electric Ford can use Alexa to lock or start their car, check tire pressure, and check whether the car battery is charged. On top of that, Ford is working on adding Alexa to all non-electric models. Alexa will then listen through the in-car entertainment system. You can give car-related commands, but you can also add items to your calendar or shopping list.

Ford is not the only car manufacturer betting on Alexa. BMW, Volvo, and Volkswagen have also integrated Alexa into their apps. Unfortunately, none of these integrations is currently available in the Netherlands.

An example of an Alexa-enabled device is the POWERbot VR7000, a robot vacuum cleaner from Samsung. The machine will start cleaning when you say, “Alexa, start the Samsung robot vacuum.” Once the floor is vacuumed, all you have to say is: “Alexa, ask Samsung to return robotic vac to charger dock.”

In the financial world, too, many are eagerly anticipating the possibilities of Alexa. Capital One is working with Amazon to let Alexa check credit card details or pay bills. Instead of banking online through a desktop, smartphone, or tablet, you can now ask Alexa for the financial information you need.

Fashion brand Guess is also joining the Alexa movement. They’re introducing the Guess Connect. It’s a smartwatch with the classic look of an analog watch, differentiating it from popular smartwatches by Apple and Samsung. Nevertheless, they have integrated Alexa in the watch via a connection to your phone. Wherever you are, you can raise your wrist and ask Alexa to find the closest ATM or gas station.

Another company working with Amazon is LG. They want to offer their customers a “full Alexa experience.” To do this, they’ve introduced a voice-first refrigerator (the Smart InstaView) that has integrated Alexa Voice Service. The fridge gives you access to an intelligent personal assistant that can help you find recipes and create shopping lists. The fridge can even order groceries at Amazon.

The Netherlands, Alexa-proof?

These examples show how businesses and their customers are fully embracing the opportunities Alexa offers in the US. Even thought Amazon’s speakers are not yet available in the Netherlands, the first Dutch companies are starting to make their products Alexa-proof. Last February, the Oxyma Group organized a hackathon where specialists from omnichannel marketing, social media, search engine marketing and mobile marketing got together. aFrogleap, part of the Oxyma Group, worked on the Alexa concept of “What’s for dinner?” It allows you to ask Alexa for cooking inspiration. In this experiment, we connected Alexa to a recipe API that picks dishes based on the products that you’ve added to a virtual fridge inventory using your voice. When choosing a recipe, Alexa also considers which products will reach their expiry date first.

These cases make one thing very clear: Alexa is generating incredible business opportunities. Amazon’s technology is enabling surprising product innovations that allow users to consume information in new ways. In smart homes, voice control is coming to life. Alexa offers a range of possibilities that no brand or business can afford to ignore.

Sign the petition!

Many Dutch marketers and creatives are getting excited: we want to get started with Alexa. So let’s unite and send a signal to Amazon: “Let’s give Alexa a Dutch voice! We want to welcome Alexa to the Netherlands!” Sign the petition here, and help us make Amazon put the Netherlands first on the release scheme for Echo and Alexa.

Never had a chance to talk to Alexa? Try it with Echosim, the web version of Alexa. Logging in requires an Amazon account.

This article is the second part of the series “Alexa, the Voice of Holland.” Read the previous article here. In the next article, we’ll describe different user experiences with Alexa. What groups could benefit from Alexa? And how do people with different ages use Alexa? 

Interested how Alexa could help you connect to your customers? Contact ai@afrogleap.com