Echo Spot Poised To Occupy Top Slot In Alexa Range
Echo Spot Poised To Occupy Top Slot In Alexa Range
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Echo Spot, which takes features from the Show and the Dot may well turn out to be the most popular in Amazon's latest lineup of new Alexa-powered devices. 

For home control there's the new Echo Plus which includes a built in home control hub and will ship with a Philip's Hue bulb.

echoplus

 

Having already captured the position of market leader for voice control in the home, Amazon is keen to ensure that it maintains this domination.

This is good news for Alexa Skills developers as Amazon will be wanting a raft of new skills especially for the new Echo Spot, the smallest device in the expanded which has a 2.5" diameter screen that can display information as well as having a forward facing camera. This will have the obvious use of making interpersonal calls using Echo Connect - a new device that will be released in the US in December and allows you to make and receive calls using your existing home phone and any Echo device.

echospot

The Echo Spot can be considered the baby sister of the Echo Show and while there isn't yet a date of the release of the Spot in the UK the Show will be released there in November. As we reported at the end of June the Alexa Skills Kit was updated so that developers could build the skills for the Echo Show's  display and video interfaces and a new developer tools will be launching for the Echo Spot soon. Given Amazon's recently announced tiered rewards scheme with payments made to developers linked to the popularity of the skills they create, this SDK may be of interest.  

The new second generation Echo has improved hearing with seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation which means it should hear you from any direction even when music is playing. It also has improved sound thanks to Dolby processing and 360 degree, omnidirectional, audio and appears to be in competition with Apple's HomePod speakers with an emphasis on multi-room music - you can save $50 (or £50) by buying three units in a single order.  The all-new Echo will ships in both the US and UK on October 31st and will be available in six different finishes to suit your decor. 

 

echoinoakfininsh

 

In addition to improved hearing and speakers the special feature of the new Echo Plus, also shipping in the UK and UK on October 31st, is that has a built-in hub that controls compatible smart devices like light bulbs, door locks, switches, and plugs without the need for a separate hub. This functionality is provided by dual-band Wi-Fi that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks, it doesn't support connecting to ad-hoc or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi networks. 

Alongside the Echo Pus, Amazon announced new skills Alexa smart home customers can use including Routines, which allow multiple devices to be controlled with a single voice command, and improvements to Groups, which reduce the need to remember the specific names of smart devices to control them.

There's also an updated release of the Alexa Smart Home Skill API to enable developers to have skills at the ready which has the following new features:

  • Alexa.Discovery and Capability Interfaces Developers can now precisely represent your smart devices and the functions they support during discovery using new Capability Interfaces, which replace appliances and actions. As well as capability interfaces designed specifically for smart cameras, entertainment devices, lights, locks and thermostats, you can use broadly applicable primitives, such as the power and percentage controllers, for many other smart device types. The capability interfaces support all of the existing appliance actions, and add two more:  thermostat developers can now enable customers to use Alexa to change modes and specify up to three different set points. 

  • Asynchronous Programming Previously, only your smart home skill running in AWS Lambda could provide updates to Alexa. With the updated API, you can send asynchronous messages directly from your device cloud to Alexa, which gives you greater flexibility for situations when your skill cannot provide an immediate response, such as when managing long running actions like locking a door.

  • Proactive State Updates. Taking advantage of the new asynchronous programming feature, proactive state updates will allow Alexa to present state with low latency when a customer asks about your devices or views them in the Alexa app. We’ve also normalized state queries across device types with a single, consistent directive, ReportState. 

If, like me, you've already paired an Echo device with a smart home system such as a Z-Wave based Vera then you may prefer to expand your system with the cute Echo Spot, which seems to be the perfect clock radio system for every room in the house. 

One small worry is that it is difficult to see what Amazon is getting out of the deal. The purchase price isn't going to cover the cost of the cloud computing needed to support Alexa and profits made on selling products seems an increasingly unlikely spin off from voice-enabled alarm clocks, communication and smart home devices. 

 

 echospot70

More Information

Introducing the Next Generation of Alexa-Enabled Devices and New Opportunities for Alexa Skills Developers

Smart Home Skill API documentation 

 

Related Articles

Amazon Echo Show - Voice Done Right

Updates to Alexa Skills Kit for Echo Show

New Products For Amazon's Alexa

Amazon Alexa Extending Its Influence

Amazon Expands Alexa Skills Rewards Program 

Amazon Lets Us All Use Lex To Build A Bot 

Alexa Skill Builder Beta 

The State Of Voice As UI  

Amazon Opens Up Alexa To Developers and Third Parties

 

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