CES, the annual technology show held in Las Vegas, once again delivered a smorgasbord of innovative technology and ideas. This year, however, one name in particular was on almost everybody’s lips: Alexa.
Alexa, Amazon’s voice controlled ‘virtual assistant’, launched several years ago in a bid to challenge Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. However, rather than embed it in mobile devices like their competitors, Amazon has recently chosen instead to integrate Alexa with smart technology, most notably their Echo speakers. We’ve already reported on how this move could help Amazon make serious waves in the music industry, but CES 2017 showed that they have much bigger plans for Alexa.
Barely a conference went by without the announcement of Alexa integration. From cars to TVs, and from lamps to hot tubs, a huge number of new gadgets were proudly touting partnerships with Amazon’s virtual assistant. LG, for example, announced a new smart fridge that uses Alexa integration to allow its owner to seamlessly order new ingredients when they are running low. Meanwhile, Whirlpool announced a number of different new smart appliances, including an oven that can change temperature and give updates on cooking status all through voice control.
(Image credit: LG)
The Internet of Things has been a key theme at CES for several years now, and looks like it will continue to dominate conversations for years to come, with the number of connected devices expected to triple to 46 billion in the next 5 years. However, what was different this year was the way Amazon had its fingers in so many pies. The ubiquity of Alexa at this year’s show suggests a genuine desire for it to take the lead in an exciting but somewhat stuttering market, effectively staking its claim to becoming the ‘operating system’ of our smart homes. Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have all become heavily involved in the IoT and AI, but Amazon has taken advantage of their slow progress to move into pole position.
The question that remains, however, is whether they can keep up the momentum, or whether their competitors, combined with a latent mistrust of invasive technology, will leave Alexa by the wayside.