Will Alexa Bring Smart?

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Many talk about the impact of Amazon. It’s impact on societal expectation. Influence on retail. It’s emergence as an MRO platform through Amazon Business. It’s foray into branded products / private labeling through Amazon Basics and its integration into the platform of many companies through Amazon Web Services (AWS).  And, remember, it’s entered into homes (and some businesses) through its voice-activated Alexa to the point that would anyone be surprised if the term “Alexa” made it into the dictionary?

Concurrently, many in the lighting and automation space have been using the term “smart” as a synonym for home / building automation. A term described to connect various utilities and appliances and essentially extract information or functionality from these devices to “make our lives easier / give us more insights.”

And, this isn’t necessarily “bad”.  It’s the evolution of technology that various devices should “talk / communicate / share.”

The challenge has been common protocols to ensure interoperability, ease / familiarity of use and “branding” (capturing mindshare.)  Manufacturers historically are challenged with userability issues with technology.

Which is where a technology company comes in.

While Amazon can be perceived as a retailer given the items sold on its platform, at its core it’s a technology company that understands buyer desire … what buyers react to.

And that’s were Alexa and “smart” intersect.

Alexa, at least in the home, helps people “get things done, easily.” And it has been well adopted … and the device is sold via many venues.  It’s an established brand … with limited competition.

Not saying good or bad, just that its established, and perhaps is a better “brand” than the concept of “smart home” or “home automation” or even industry brands such as Leviton, Legrand, Schneider Electric, Signify, Landis + Gyr and others.  These manufacturers are not “bad” brands, they just aren’t Amazon or Alexa?

Why mention this?

An article in this month’s Enlightenment Magazine shares that Amazon has joined the Zigbee Alliance, which is “an organization of 100s of companies creating, maintain and delivering open standards for the IoT” and will have a seat on the organization’s board of directors.

So, the opportunity to influence AND the opportunity to network with these companies.

According to Christian Taubman, Director Alexa Smart Home at Amazon, “Customers tell us they want smart home experiences that are simple to set up, easy to control, and add convenience to the tasks they do every day.  Voice control with Alexa is helping remove the complexity of smart home, and there are even more ways we can help customers by ensuring their smart devices connect and work together seamlessly.” (oh, and could Amazon set up a platform / marketplace for selling smart home appliances and services? And what about the data being collected that can then be used to predict needs?).

Yes, Alexa can make things easier … perhaps like the old days of English butlers (so they say.) Today, Echo Plus features a built-in smart home hub that connects Zigbee-based light bulbs, door locks and sensors.

Today, all that needs to be said is “Alexa, discover my devices.”

So …

  • Is this the impetus to make smart homes a reality and a growth segment?
  • Are you seeing more home builders offering smart home functionality or will this be an aftermarket element?
  • Will it be bought by consumers at retail / online or will there be a play for distributors? Will distributors be left with only the rough-in elements in the residential market?
  • What will contractors sell here?
  • Will the “smart” market be left to retail / online for “the masses” and then segment to custom electronics installers (typically CEPro subscribers)?

If you serve the residential market, either the core element or multi-family, this could be a big deal.  If you focus in the commercial market, how much of a leap before Alexa’s functionality could move into the commercial space … as consumers become more comfortable with “smart homes”, will they expect “smart offices” (and then the accelerated adoption of smart buildings.?)

Amazon joining Zigbee could be the catalyst for accelerated growth in this segment. Maybe we will get “smart.”

Do you sell Alexa-enabled products? How will distributors participate in the smart home market longer-term or is it destined for big boxes (Home Depot / Lowes) and online (Amazon, others)?

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1 thought on “Will Alexa Bring Smart?”

  1. I believe distributors should think not only of the sale of this type of smart product, but how they might incorporate the technology into their business operations. I believe Amazon Alexa type products have tremendous potential in the inside sales and counter area.

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