Amazon wants to compete in the burgeoning Internet of Things industry, and the device that will allow it to do so is already on the market.
Amazon launched Echo in November 2014. At the time, the black cylinder was marketed as a combination stereo and digital assistant, capable of answering spoken queries (“What’s the weather outside?”) and blasting music. Pundits at the time assumed that Echo was meant to compete against Google Now and Apple’s Siri, digital assistants primarily available on smartphones and tablets.
But recent updates have made it clear that Echo is at least partially meant as a hub for “smart homes,” or residences in which various appliances and fixtures are connected and controllable via Wi-Fi. Those new updates make Echo compatible with apps and hardware for controlling lights and relatively simple appliances such as space heaters.
Echo faces some competition from Apple, which has made no secret of its intent, via its HomeKit platform, to make iOS a “smart home” controller. By acquiring Nest (known for its connected smoke detectors and thermostats), Google is also in a position to make a significant play in this market. Now Amazon, which envisions itself as much as a technology company as an e-commerce one, has carved itself an entryway into the space, via an existing device. Will any one dominate?