Amazon Echo: From the Home to the Enterprise

Remember in the first Iron Man movie, when Tony Stark would have conversations with his in house digital assistant, J.A.R.V.I.S? Together, they built the Iron Man suite and saved the world, with little banter along the way.  The artificial intelligent character was a hit, even though he was just a voice. When the first movie was released in 2008, J.A.R.V.I.S seemed like a fantasy. Fast forward to 2016, and I now have a digital assistant in my home: The Amazon Echo. Using voice commands, we use it to order goods on, add grocery items to our shopping list, check the weather, get information from Wikipedia, set a timer when I water the grass, control our Nest and our sound system. Or, if you have a baby like we do, you can play “Baby Einstein” on Pandora–over and over and over. The Echo is amazing and it’s already being replicated by Google with the Google Home. Let the competition begin!

Voice command in consumer homes

However, the Echo and it’s counterparts, won’t be confined to the home for long–something Google maybe should have thought about before they settled on a name. Home-use was never Amazon’s end game because for many companies, it’s a test lab: A safe place to start checking functionality and market interest. IoT did the same thing with things like Nest, app-controlled security systems, and home lighting systems. But the consumer home isn’t where the focus is. IoT companies are targeting Industrial and commercial use of connected products.

Similarly, Amazon has its sights on something bigger. And better.

People love voice controlled products and the interest is growing. Lot’s of people prefer to use Siri instead of typing text messages and Apple just put her on macOS Sierra. Voice-activated command systems are becoming a staple inside new vehicles (i.e. Ford’s Sync) and it’s quickly finding it’s way into TV remotes. If we start looking around, we’ll notice that voice control is showing up in a lot of places.

Where is voice command going next?

How quickly things change, expensive LCD displays, elegant mobile applications, and now Voice sits center stage as the user interface of choice.

Using your voice to control your music and your furnace is nice, but voice is on the verge of taking over a lot more than the home. Voice is the new user interface for the consumer. No LCD, no apps, and no UI. Just the spoken word.

Voice is the new user interface for the consumer. No LCD, no apps, and no UI. Just the spoken word.

Interestingly, last year I wrote about this in my article  Amazon and IoT (Part 2). With AWS’ re:Invent just a few weeks away, and with the high chances of Amazon expanding their voice controlled features at the event, it’s a topic that needs some revisiting. Here are some hypothetical capabilities from my previous article:

Consider technicians working in the field on a generator for an oil pump. Instead of manually checking on the operations of another generator a few miles away she can simply ask a field-version of Echo… Make a verbal request, receive a digital response. Medical surgeries, air traffic control, and fleet management could all use Echo technology respectively.

What about first responders?

Firefighters are looking at IoT technology to improve their effectiveness. They’ll be able to use sensors in the midst of a fire to assist in situational awareness and personnel location… They’ll be able to collect data before the incident to be more effective, enhance interoperability between data systems (i.e. building, weather, street, etc.) and they’ll be developing intelligent systems to assist with decision-making. For police officers, using an interactive microphone on their uniform instead of talking to dispatch, they’ll be able to ask questions and get answers, make voice commands with an immediate response. 

Using the Echo to talk to Connected Products

Even as I write about these capabilities, it still sounds like a far-off, futuristic concept but it’s not! We’ve built ThingLogix Foundry, a Connected Product Management system for IoT and connected products. Think of it as a Salesforce, or a CRM, for connected devices and products. But what’s our latest addition to Foundry? We’ve recently integrated it with the Amazon Echo. Customers can interact with their connected products–ask for status updates, locations, make commands, etc.–using the Echo. People from all types of industries can talk with things that don’t talk. And the best part? It’s an application interface that can easily be used by a non technical staff.

And the best part? It’s an application interface that can easily be used by a non technical staff.

Take that capability into the service field, manufacturing facilities, and factories and all the capabilities that I wrote about in 2015 are no longer just future possibilities, but present realities. We can do it. Today.

Maybe the Iron Man suit isn’t possible (at least right now) but digital, voice commanded assistants are. When our customers and AWS start using voice command systems, the trend will grow exponentially. The dominos have already begun to fall.

Would you like to share perspectives on AWS IoT, Foundry Application Services, and or Echo integrations? We would be happy to share what works in the field and what doesn’t. Let’s talk.

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