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Amazon is determined to increase its footprint in the smart home. To make a step in that direction, the company has unveiled a range of new Echo devices and made a number of Alexa updates, especially around home security functionality. Until we get to a point where Alexa is truly smart and no longer needs the user's input to function, which currently seems a long way off, the challenge for Amazon will be to find an effective way for its customers to understand and use Alexa's new functions.

Amazon wants Alexa to learn more about you while keeping your home safe

Amazon's recent announcements revolve around making Alexa smarter, more useful, and omnipresent in more devices while making progress in home security as a target market. These are some examples of Alexa's new functions:

  • Hunches: This feature suggests actions based on the user's everyday behavior, reminding the user to turn off lights or lock the door when they say "good night" to Alexa, for example. Amazon wants Alexa to become a personal assistant that learns and improves over time to offer a tailored and more useful smart living experience at home. Hunches represents a key step in turning Alexa into a true learning assistant that helps users without them even knowing they needed help in the first place.
  • Alexa Guard: For the home security market, Amazon has introduced a new sound-monitoring feature that enables Alexa to notify users if there is something suspicious happening at their home while they are away. Once Alexa Guard is activated, Alexa can listen out for the sound of broken glass or smoke/carbon monoxide alarms and send users notifications and sound clips if there is an incident. Alternatively, Amazon can integrate Alexa with its own Ring professional security service and third-party security providers such as ADT, enabling Alexa to send notifications to these service providers instead. Alexa Guard will help Amazon to strengthen its position in the residential security market, expanding its comprehensive portfolio of products and services and adding to its Ring and Blink acquisitions.
  • Away Mode: This skill mimics the presence of people by playing audio and turning smart lights on and off randomly. With this initiative, Amazon is making use of existing smart home functionality to protect the home and keep burglars away while validating the key role of smart lighting in smart security.

Alexa's new functionality shows a glimpse of the potential of AI assistants in the smart home – helping to keep the home safe and secure. Ovum expects the role of AI assistants to continue expanding in 2019 as the race for the smart home intensifies. However, one important consideration is that users will need more assistance to navigate Alexa's growing functionality, especially if they want to customize their smart living experience and protect their homes. At present, the amount of commands a user can learn or even remember is limited. The key for Amazon will be to continue developing features, such as Hunches, that increase Alexa's proactiveness as a virtual assistant. Additionally, Amazon must overcome current adoption barriers by delivering a consistent user experience, tackling trust issues, and preventing potential vulnerabilities.


Further reading

AI Assistant Tracker: 1H18, CES006-000029 (August 2018)

Smart Home Case Study: Amazon consolidates its position in the smart home market, CES006-000021 (May 2018)

"Amazon expands its service portfolio to gain traction in the smart security market," CES006-000023 (May 2018)


Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Consumer Services

[email protected]