Amazon’s Blink buy sums up the smart home in 2017 … and 2018

The Blink camera is a $ 99 wireless camera.

Amazon has acquired the company that makes the Blink line of cameras and a newly launched $ 99 doorbell. The deal itself doesn’t come as a surprise since Immedia Semiconductor, the Boston-based company that makes Blink, has been on the market for months.

Amazon likely scored a relative bargain, much like Ooma did with camera maker Butterfleye (see the news section below). Smart device startups seeking an exit is one huge theme from 2017, as is a focus on security. Looking ahead to 2018, it’s worth noting that Blink’s planned $ 99 doorbell and existing $ 99 wireless cameras put price pressure on competitors in the the market.

If I were picking a macro trend for the smart home device space, I would bet on next year being the year of pricing pressure for devices. For example, one of the most compelling devices I’ve seen this year is the $ 20 Wyze camera that is built to modern hardware specs like a Nest Cam or Arlo, but costs so much less. The Wyze co-founders were former Amazon alumni and the company’s goal is to sell a bunch of cameras on razor-thin margins to command the market.

With Blink, Amazon gets a cheaper device, but it also gets some serious technical know-how. The Blink camera business was actually born out of a chip company that decided it needed a new and more lucrative market for an image processing chip it had developed.

Immedia Semiconductor made a chip that sold for a few bucks to DVD and Blu-Ray player companies, but after looking at the margins, CEO Peter Besen decided to build a product that showcased the chip’s battery-sipping image processing technology. The result was a wireless camera that launched on Kickstarter in 2014.

Amazon now has the cameras and future doorbell. It also now has its own image processing chip technology. As companies like Google and Apple build dedicated silicon for their mass-market devices, that could become an advantage. Even if it doesn’t Amazon now has another advantage in the smart home — a security offering.

As I’ve written in the past, home security is a gateway drug for home automation. Companies ranging from Nest to Comcast are trying to build compelling security offerings to entice consumers to adopt their platform and buy their devices and services. Meanwhile, security firms like ADT are pushing into the home automation market and trying to stop rivals from encroaching on its turf. For example, ADT is suing Ring to stop the sale of Ring’s security system.

In short, for what is likely a relatively decent price, Amazon now has a dedicated low-power image processing chip, a security offering and a leg up on the coming price war in connected devices. Meanwhile, Blink device owners will get continued support for the time being.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Interview with Nest’s Matt Rogers and a look at Amazon’s new gear

Amazon’s new Echo Spot

On this week’s The Internet of Things Podcast, Stacey Higginbotham interviews Matt Rogers, co-founder and VP of Engineering at Nest. They discuss the rationale behind the new Nest Security system and where Nest is heading. They also talk about efforts to build a closer relationship between the Google Home and Nest teams.

The big news this week is, of course, Amazon announcing six new Alexa-enabled products. Stacey and co-host Kevin Tofel discuss the new lineup. Kevin also reviews his Apple Watch with LTE and they discuss a new program from the Food and Drug Administration that will allow nine companies to get pre-certifications for their devices. They discuss a story Stacey broke on StaceyOnIoT.com about a stealthy new lighting startup from a former Nest co-founder. Plus: a partnership around autonomous vehicles and a fight between Google and Amazon.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Amazon’s Alexa wants to rule your world

Amazon introduces Amazon Alexa, Echo and the All-New Echo Dot at a product launch in London

Upon visiting Berlin’s IFA2107  — Germany’s answer to CES — recently,  there was one word I kept hearing: Alexa. In the consumer hardware space, it’s a great time to be Amazon, if the sheer number of hardware companies jumping on the Alexa bandwagon are anything to go by.

Only today it was revealed that Amazon is working on a pair of smart glasses integrating Alexa, intended to look similar to regular glasses with bone conduction technology to allow the user to engage with Alexa without having to wear headphones. Amazon is also working on an Echo connected camera system that cannot only keep a look out for intruders but also Amazon-delivered packages.

See also: Amazon may acquire startup to make Alexa smarter

During the IFA conference, a number of companies made their own Alexa announcements. Let’s take a look:

Bragi makes The Dash series Amazon Alexa-compatible

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Smart headphone  company Bragi is responsible for one of the largest Kickstarter funding rounds in European history (over $ 3.39 million) with The Dash series (The Dash, The Dash Pro), headphones that not only enable the user to listen to music without leads  but also measure movements like pace, steps, cadence and distance along with heart rate, oxygen saturation and energy spent, without an attached smartphone.

At IFA2017 they company announced that their headphones are now  Alexa-compatible. This marks a first for Alexa in the “truly wireless” headphone space. It’s also one of the first truly mobile hardware integrations for Amazon’s cloud-based voice service.

“Now customers with The Dash headphones can easily take Alexa with them on the go,” said Jon Kirk, Director Amazon Alexa.

“Bragi’s intelligent headphones with Alexa will make it easy for customers to control their smart home, ask for news, and access more than 20,000 skills in the Alexa skills store.”

Bragi products are currently compatible with voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, but Amazon Alexa brings a new world of possibilities through smart home, shopping, and home entertainment use cases. Users of Amazon Alexa on The Dash will also be able to access several streaming audio options including their Amazon Music Library, Amazon Prime Music, Audible and TuneIn Radio.

Amazon Alexa increases robot helper tasks

UBTECH Robotics‘ Alpha 2 and younger sibling Lynx, are two humanoid robots are intent on taking over your household tasks. They can take pictures and videos, make calls, check voicemails, read and send texts and emails, and control WiFi-enabled office equipment. They can also post to your social media using voice commands and dance enthusiastically due to over 20 joints on each robot. Alpha 2 features an open API and SDK for Android and the comes welcomes input from developer enthusiasts.

Significantly, Lynx is the first video-enabled humanoid robot with Amazon Alexa functionality. This means that the robot can not only shop directly from Amazon but also ’s talk to home devices such as security cameras, door locks, security systems, and thermostats.

 

Fellow robotics company Qiban debuted Sanbot Nano, the company’s first home robot. It’s something like a security camera crossed with Echo Dot  — it’s Alexa capabilities succeeded that of Lynx robot — that patrols your house and talks to you, thanks to 50 sensors that help it avoid obstacles, hear voices, and facial recognition tech that helps it recognize when someone enters the room.

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The downside is its price, you can expect to part with $ 2,800, more than double the price of Alpha 2 and Lynx.

Other products that announced partnerships with Amazon included SmarterFridge Cam, Bosch 360° Indoor Camera and Eyes Outdoor Cameras and a new range of televisions for Toshiba.

Alexa and Cortana connect

Along with lending it’s functionality to more and more hardware, Amazon and Microsoft announced on Sunday that Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and Cortana will be able to talk to Alexa.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.

According to Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon:

“The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”

The combining of the home automation and shopping functionalities of Alexa and business communication skills of Cortana will provide some useful collaborative clout against Google and Siri assistants, as well as showing the benefits of collaboration to the innovation of the voice assistant ecosystem. There is, however, no word yet from the latter companies as to whether they want to join the gang. As Amazon endeavors to seep into every part of your life, you can bet the rest are taking notice.

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Amazon’s latest wacky idea: mobile drone stations on trains, boats, and vans

amazon-truck-drone-delivery

Amazon’s engineers are cooking up some wild ideas on how to integrate drones into major cities. In the latest patent filing, the e-commerce giant shows how special facilities connected to trains, boats, and vans could be used as storage space and repair stations for drones.

The drones would be moved to areas of anticipated demand and fly out from the mobile hub.

See Also: Drones might inspect your house when making deliveries

“The intermodal vehicles may be coupled to locomotives, container ships, road tractors or other vehicles, and equipped with systems for loading one or more items onto the aerial vehicle, and for launching or retrieving the aerial vehicle while the intermodal vehicles are in motion.”

“Additionally, intermodal vehicles may be loaded with replacement parts and/or inspection equipment, and configured to conduct repairs, servicing operations or inspections on aerial vehicles within the intermodal vehicles, while the intermodal vehicles are in motion,” said Amazon in the filing.

Having mobile storage and repair units may help Amazon deploy thousands of drones without having to spend a large amount on warehouse space inside major cities. We could even see Amazon use the transport for both supply and storage, with the drone taking items from the same truck or train.

drone-ship-amazon

Amazon clearly going all-in on drones

It should be noted Amazon is filing quite a lot of patents to do with drone travel and storage. It patented a zeppelin concept that had drones delivering parcels from above and mini zeppelins supplying the mother. A few weeks later it filed a vertical warehouse in the shape of a beehive.

Even with all these filings, Amazon is still a few years away from any serious drone deployment. The company has conducted a few tests in the U.K., but has yet to integrate drones into any of its Prime services and the laws on drone use are still in flux across most of the world.

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Why Amazon’s Echo Show makes me feel lonely

This week on the Internet of Things Podcast…

After a week with the Amazon Echo Show I realize that I have no friends–on that device at least. In addition to my review of the Show, Kevin shares a review of the GoControl Z-wave sensor pack he purchased to go with the Wink, and I talk about the Leviton Decora light switch in depth. Reviews aside, we also chat (and sing!) about low power wide area networksIngenu’s departing CEO and the closure of the company behind a $ 500 backup camera.

My guest interview this week is with Fahri Diner, the CEO of Plume. We discuss where Wi-Fi is heading. He’s one of those that convinced me that Wi-Fi will end up in more devices, and he talks about how his deals with Comcast and Samsung will make that possible. We also discuss why you’re going to pay your ISP for Wi-Fi and where the retail model will struggle.

Listen here:

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis