Friday, March 2, 2018

Tech Companies Aim to Develop Ecosystems of Interconnected Devices

Many new technological innovations revolve around the category of "smart devices." These inventions, which tend to be for the home, but can also be used in businesses, aim to integrate all of the user's devices, for a seamless connection and a simpler interface. For example, over the past year or so, several of the largest tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Google, etc) have come out with their own devices powered by artificial intelligence (Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc). More than that, though, says Tracey Lien in her L.A. Times article, those big tech firms are making a concentrated effort to integrate all kinds of other technologies into their digital assistants, in order to better draw in potential new users.

For example, Amazon approached a company called "August," which focuses on remotely-controlled locking systems, a few years ago to see if August would be willing to allow integration of their service into Amazon's Echo device. The CEO of August agreed, figuring that the partnership with Amazon could only be a good thing, and now a user of the Echo can lock or unlock their doors simply by speaking and instructing Alexa (Amazon's artificial intelligence) to do so. Using voice recognition to control other devices in a home is a highly-sought-after capability among consumers, which is why devices like the Echo have become so popular.

From August to security camera-designer Ring and so many others, there are over 30,000 different ways by which Alexa interacts with third-party devices and applications. With many, the combination of third-party accessibility is the selling point. Let's say you're expecting your friend to come by to pick something up, but you're bed-ridden, or you just don't feel like getting up to answer the door. Ring would tell you who is at the door, then you could use that information to decide whether to let August unlock the door so they can just walk in. The combination of devices makes many things that much easier and more efficient, saving users time.

The purpose of companies like Amazon is to make their devices so useful that they can bring in more and more customers. Then, much like Apple has done continuously over the years, they create an ecosystem of their devices, where each device is useful on its own, but they blend so seamlessly that having all of the devices is the ideal choice. Through various online shopping services, such as Amazon Prime or Google Express, there may even come a day in the near future when users can control everything about their home, including the purchase and receipt of deliveries, remotely. Already, Wi-Fi enabled thermostats and smart electronics are poking out into the marketplace. Who knows what's next?

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