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Here’s why AWS is debuting Alexa for developers in India with reference kits

Vishal Krishna
18th Dec 2017
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As the battle for a connected future hots up, AWS is plugging Alexa, its intelligent personal assistant, as one of the key elements in electronic devices of the future.

 The war for the consumer has already begun. And this time, it’s voice assistants that are fighting for the chance to serve. With IT behemoths Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple all investing heavily in voice technology, it seems clear that this is the future.

Gartner Inc estimates that by 2018 – that’s not too far - 30 percent of human interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with smart machines.

No wonder that Amazon, with its popular voice assistant Alexa, is eyeing the chance to grab the largest share of this pie.

Adam Berns, Head of Alexa Voice Search, speaks at the Amazon AI Conclave in Bengaluru

At the AWS AI conclave in Bengaluru, engineers were told that they could use Alexa services to ramp up their services offerings through their app. They would be provided with reference kits to learn about how voice could be used to change every connected thing, be it cars, homes or offices.

But right now, Alexa is being used for smart home devices and music recommendations. Thanks to these voice assistants, users don't need deep intricate things such as text-based inputs; voice allows consumers to find things easily.

Adam Berns, Director BD, Alexa Voice Service, says, “People use Alexa to play music, timers, and alarms.”

Eye on the future

But the possibilities in the future are immense, and that’s where Amazon wants to take a lead globally. What’s the biggest competition? Google. Both these companies are way ahead of Apple’s Siri but could Apple capture the market because of its sheer market share in devices.

Amazon has sold tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices. Today, there are 30,000 Alexa skills, and tens of thousands of developers who have used Alexa. Alexa has 1,000-plus certified products. The IT giant reportedly had more than 5,000 employees working on Alexa and related products as of September 2017.

It is interesting because devices are getting smarter and new functionalities are being added every day. Amazon’s vision is to be everywhere – they want to be connected to the home, appliances, TV, wearables, automobiles, digital assistants, smart home, and smartphones.

Numerous products that can work with third parties and AWS wants Alexa to take a lead there too.

“We build devices with third parties and show the capabilities of these devices. We have launched in several countries today and we are yet to tap into a lot of places and bring this to more customers,” Adam says.

The three main areas for developers to focus on with Alexa are:

  • Alexa Skills Set
  • Alexa Voice Service: build voice as a service on all apps
  • Connected Devices

“You can use software to do this and do it fast,” Adam says.

Lending a helping hand

Cloud-based intelligence is the key to voice technologies. Amazon will make things easier for developers by providing them with reference kits and software reference designs. They are doing so because this is going to be a big market.

End-user spending for the worldwide virtual personal assistant (VPA)-enabled wireless speaker market is forecasted to reach $3.52 billion by 2021, up from $0.72 billion in 2016, according to Gartner.

Werner Goertz, Research Director at Gartner, says: “The market for VPA-enabled wireless speakers, such as the Amazon Echo devices and Google Home, is expanding rapidly with more vendors, device types and use cases.” He adds that temporary slowing of growth is expected in 2018, “as other devices, such as lighting systems, hubs and Wi-Fi mesh devices, adopt VPA functionality, especially in connected home scenarios”.

Beginning in 2019, third-generation VPA speaker products will start shipping with some Artificial Intelligence (AI) functions running on the device rather than in the cloud. Gartner expects these AI-enabled VPA speakers to use edge-device, Machine-Learning capabilities to enhance latency, alleviate privacy/security issues, and utilise bandwidth more efficiently.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality, the future is in voice. That’s why Amazon is leading the way in this battle for connected future dominance.

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