Amazon Alexa’s Expansion May Change Internet of Things

Amazon is opening its Alexa digital assistant to any manufacturer that builds voice-enabled devices.

With the new Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Device SDK tools, developers can install Alexa on hardware capable of speech recognition. That’s potentially a very big deal; if enough devices choose to use Alexa for notifications, alerts, and other “skills,” it could make the assistant a de-facto standard for the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The AVS Device SDK provides C++-based libraries that enable your device to process audio inputs and triggers, establish persistent connections with AVS, and handle all Alexa interactions,” reads the note on Amazon’s developer page. “The included capability agents expose the AVS API to handle core Alexa functionality, including speech recognition and synthesis.”

Major SDK components include an audio input processor, “wake word” detector (so the manufacturer or developer can customize the phrase that “wakes” the device up), and libraries of directives and commands.

During an invite-only developer preview, some 50 commercial manufacturers signed up to install Alexa in their devices. Now that the SDK program is available to all third parties, expect the amount of supported hardware to grow.

For tech pros who are interested in digital assistants, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), this is a very big deal. Amazon has the reach to potentially make Alexa a near-ubiquitous voice interface for hardware, and its rivals know it: Microsoft, Google, and other players could follow the e-commerce giant’s lead and issue more IoT-centric tools over the next several months. Microsoft has already announced its intention to expand Cortana, its own digital assistant, to enabled devices such as refrigerators.

The digital-assistant war originally started with branded devices: Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo versus Google Home versus Apple’s (upcoming) HomePod. If that conflict expands to third-party devices, it could leave Apple, which traditionally likes to build its own hardware, at something of a disadvantage.

In any case, tech pros interested in this category should get familiar with the AVS Device SDK. Chances are good a number of manufacturers will adopt it in the near term.