By Roland Moore-Colyer
Amazon is bringing its virtual assistant powered Echo speakers to the UK and Germany this autumn, launching the voice-controlled internet of things (IoT) hub beyond U.S. borders.
Using the Alexa virtual assistant, users of the Amazon Echo can use voice commands to instruct Alexa to control IoT devices, create shopping lists and play music from third-party services such as Spotify.
Amazon will release two versions of the Echo in Britain; one main speaker priced at £149.99 and a smaller speaker called the Dot which will cost £49.99 and be used as a means to connect other IoT devices in different rooms.
Commanding the IoT
The relative success the Echo found in the United States and the rise of more IoT devices and services, means it is only logical for Amazon to bring the Echo to other markets.
Furthermore, it comes at a time when connected devices for creating smart homes are more prevalent and easier to use thanks to 'plug and play' credentials, which according to Gartner research director Jessica Ekholm is fueling the home automation market.
"Creating a connected home doesn’t require strong technical skills, spending lots of money, or major home improvements. A connected home will be easily achievable for most in a few years," she said, noting the Echo brings a simple way to control a smart home.
"The use of voice as a command for connected home solutions is easier to use than an app: why use an app to control your home when you can just 'shout' at it?"
While the Echo is aimed at consumers with smart home ambitions, for the IT world it offers developers a new platform to create apps for, thanks to the Echo's support for third-party software. Arguably, this support is a key factor for ensuring the Echo and the Alexa assistant are a success, as having smart functionality with no smart devices and software to connect to would render the device and platform rather moot.
Amazon started paving the way for developers by publishing a guide that allows keen tinkerers to use Alexa with the Raspberry Pi.