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Amazon silent coup over smart homes
January 10, 2016, 3:44 pm

Of all the forecasts made at CES, the smart home feels like one of the nearest to coming true. This year, the most important name in the smart home is Alexa. The name belongs to Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant, which began as the personal assistant inside the online shopping company’s Echo speaker that went on sale to the public in June. Over the course of a few months, however, Alexa has moved beyond Echo and into a host of third-party devices, in part thanks to Amazon’s $100 million Alexa Fund, which helps other companies incorporate the software into their products.

Now those investments are bearing fruit. At CES 2016, Amazon is a stealth attendee. Without a booth or logo in sight, Alexa is weaving its way into third-party products here as varied as home security cameras, lighting systems, and Ford vehicles. By creating a voice interface for asking about the weather, playing music, and the mundane resupplying of paper towels and snacks, Amazon has emerged as the go-to partner for industries in need of powerful natural language processing and fast access to information from the internet. The benefit for Amazon is obvious: voice software tied directly to the Amazon Store is a great way to keep people spending money on Amazon.

Invoxia, one of the recipients of an Alexa Fund investment from Amazon last September, announced this week at CES that it is incorporating all the power of Alexa into its product named Triby. A colorful, magnet-backed Bluetooth speaker resembling an old-school radio, the Triby is designed to let family members, including young children, make internet-based phone calls with one another, draw doodles and leave messages, and play music in the kitchen. Triby will also be able to identify every member of a household and prevent certain users, like an eight-year-old child, from ordering a truckload of candy on Amazon.

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