Amazon Alexa Day Hails Smart Home Ambient Intelligence with Matter as a Foundation

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By Jonathan Collins | 3Q 2022 | IN-6631

Amazon’s latest Alexa Live conference detailed new functionality for partner company developers to start to extend ambient awareness into Alexa managed smart homes. The new capabilities reflect the importance and imminence of the Matter specification.

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Amazon Unveils Developer Support for Ambient Intelligence and Matter Integration

NEWS


It is indicative of the key position of both voice control and the major consumer technology companies driving smart homes that Amazon’s Alexa Live conference in July demanded such attention. This year, during the annual event initiated in 2017, Amazon outlined new support for developers related to the much-anticipated arrival of the Matter specification, but the message went well beyond what Matter support will demand and enable. Underpinning the event was an emphasis on driving ambient smart home intelligence, which will be key as smart home capabilities and services transform into extended service value and opportunities.

The Alexa Ambient Home Dev Kit

IMPACT


At the online event, Amazon announced its Alexa Ambient Home Dev Kit, which consists of several new services and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that aim to draw partners into supporting integration into unified smart home control through Alexa. Alexa Live saw the first five Ambient Home Dev Kit APIs detailed:

  • Home State API: Enables smart home devices to exchange status and data to enable a desired “state” in the home. Examples included Home, Vacation, Dinner Time, or Sleep. The key difference between the existing features, such as routines, is that rather than a centralized control managing the status of devices (on/off, open/closed, etc.), this enables the device status to determine the state of the home and what additional actions might be appropriate. For example, if a window is open, do not run the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC), or if the home is empty, let the robot vacuum cleaner operate.
  • Safety & Security API: Extends Alexa Guard functionality, which has been available to developers for integrating devices within their apps and services, and also extends it to detecting and activating according to sound events detected by Echo devices, such as smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms, providing customers with increased home awareness and coverage in more spaces.
  • API for Device & Group Organization: This API enables automatic synchronization of device and group names between Alexa and third-party apps, so end users don’t have to replicate their device groups across multiple apps. 
  • API for Credentials: This will allow third-party devices added to a smart home Alexa environment to ensure that details for the Thread network already established in the home can be shared with new Matter-compliant devices without the end user having to manually enter them.

A final API was key regarding the new Matter specification:

  • API for Multi-Admin Simple Setup for Matter: This makes it easy for customers to add an app or smart home service as an additional Matter admin using this cloud-based API, providing customers with a hassle-free way to connect their preferred Matter admins to their Matter devices.

MatterAmbient and Multi-Admin

RECOMMENDATIONS


The latest developer support offerings come just ahead of the key Matter specification and outline not only commitment to the standard (unsurprising, as Amazon was a founder member of the project), but more importantly, the wider impetus for the initiative. Set for delivery before the end of the year, Matter brings a level of cross-vendor interoperability that has long been missing in smart homes, contributing to consumer confusion and stifling purchases. With its latest Alexa Software Development Kit (SDK) offerings, Amazon is already outlining the role Matter will play in enabling smarter and more ambient homes. This step change in device interoperability and management reduces the burden on consumers largely uninterested in designing and programming routines and settings. Instead, system intelligence and shared device status push that increasingly onto the smart home management platform. This means greater value and improved usage for consumers. For players like Amazon and its major competitors and Matter founding partners Google, Apple, and others, it means driving wider smart home adoption and tying those services even more closely to the platform that delivers the best smart home intelligence management. It also means an improved understanding of consumers’ demands and desired use cases, and, of course, an installed base of value for a growing range of home product service providers eager to find new customers.

Amazon’s announcement was of particular importance regarding Matter with its support for multi-admin. This is the feature that allows consumers to switch smart home management control and admin control between rival players; for example, switching a home management system from voice control using Alexa to instead using Siri or Google Assistant. Multi-admin control will appease those consumers wary of which multi-national giant has access and control of their smart home data.

Multi-admin control had been one of the issues cited as delaying the initial delivery of a finished specification given the complexity, but also the potential for the function to threaten the value of smart home players’ investment in voice control and smart home support, in general, so the delivery of an SDK supporting this is a key step in delivering a finalized Matter specification. It is unlikely that the majority of consumers will use the function, given either the real or perceived complexity of doing so, or more so, as part of the general end-user inertia regarding smart home set-up that helped ensure the formation of the Matter initiative. Even so, it is a feature that requires the collaboration of the Matter proponents in its delivery, and the support heralds the looming delivery of the specification.

Amazon’s latest Alexa SDK will play a key role in bringing Matter into the wider ecosystem. The company stated that one-third of Alexa commands now relate to controlling smart home devices—a statistic that highlights not only the growing value of voice control and smart home integration, but also the current role voice plays in smart home control. While Matter will help grow that penetration in the short term, it will be the device and system integration supported by Matter that will eventually transition voice control into a smaller role, as ambient intelligence takes on systematic control, leaving voice for the most intimate and ad hoc requests.

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