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September 20, 2018Rick Carragher
Editor's note: we are happy to announce that some of the updates noted below - the new Mode, Range, and Toggle capability interfaces - are now generally available in the US. The associated developer previews described below are now closed. Learn more.
Device makers have already connected more than 20,000 smart devices, from more than 3,500 brands, to Alexa. Today, we’re excited to announce new developer tools in preview that make device setup easier for customers and let you extend voice control to any device - from the simplest wall plug to the most complex appliance - and to any feature of your device. With the updated Smart Home Skill API, you can use new toggle, range, and mode APIs as building blocks to model the complete feature set of your device, and combine native Alexa smart home skill utterances and your own custom utterances in a single skill. With Wi-Fi simple setup, a part of the Frustration-Free Setup program, you can simplify customer setup of Wi-Fi devices using the same approach we use on Amazon devices such as Echo and Fire TV. Finally, with the Alexa Connect Kit, you can connect any device to the Internet and Alexa by integrating a hardware module over a simple serial interface, without worrying about managing cloud services, Alexa skills, or complex networking and security firmware.
We’re adding new capabilities for smart home skills that let you take advantage of Alexa’s native voice user interface (VUI) for more of the features of your device, and extend the VUI with your own custom intents. With these new tools, you can support any smart device you can imagine, and deliver the right voice user interface for all of your current features and any you invent in the future. The updated API, available in preview in the US starting today, allows you to:
Several device makers are already developing with the updated smart home skill API:
In the coming months, we will also extend our native smart home APIs with additional doorbell, camera, and security system capabilities. You’ll be able to use Alexa to notify customers when someone rings the doorbell, and use Alexa to talk to your visitor. You’ll also be able to use the new SecurityPanelController interface to enable customers to arm and disarm your security systems, and query for system status.
Getting smart devices connected to the Internet is still too difficult, which is why today we announced the Frustration-Free Setup program to help remove or reduce steps in setting up connected devices. Last year, we made setup easier with Zigbee simple setup, available on Amazon devices with a built-in smart home hub like Echo Plus and the new Echo Show. Today, we are introducing Wi-Fi simple setup, an SDK and service that helps customers connect smart home devices to Wi-Fi. When a new smart home device that incorporates the Wi-Fi simple setup SDK is powered on for the first time, it searches for and connects to the Wi-Fi simple setup network established by other devices in the home. This network is used to authenticate the device, securely connect to the Amazon Wi-Fi locker, an encrypted cloud credential store, and deliver a customer’s stored home network credentials to the new device. Our goal with Wi-Fi simple setup is not just to simplify setup but also to reduce costs for device makers that come through customer support calls and device returns.
Any Wi-Fi smart home device can host the Wi-Fi simple setup network and any smart home device that has implemented the Wi-Fi simple setup SDK can seamlessly connect to it. The SDK, which has been built for embedded Linux and will be available for other embedded platforms in the future, is provided for free for device makers. We are already working with partners including Wemo, eero, Kasa Smart by TP-Link, and TP-Link to bring the Wi-Fi simple setup experience to devices launching next year.
The Alexa Connect Kit (Preview), or ACK, gives you the tools to turn any device with a microcontroller (MCU) into a smart device. Simply add an Amazon-managed ACK module to your device, connect it to your device’s MCU over a serial interface, and add ACK interface code to your device’s firmware to interpret control messages from the module. To make the integration as easy as possible, the ACK development kit includes a sample MCU equipped with sample code you can port to your device’s specific MCU. The module uses Wi-Fi to securely connect your device to Amazon-managed cloud services that provide Alexa control, Wi-Fi simple setup, Dash Replenishment Service, and all the device metrics and logs you need to manage devices in the field. With an ACK module on your device, you can focus on building great hardware. ACK provides you:
We used ACK internally to build the AmazonBasics Microwave announced today. In addition, leading device makers and consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble, Hamilton Beach, Tonly, and Midea are already using the Alexa Connect Kit to develop new devices.
“We’ve been surprised at how easy it is to use the Alexa Connect Kit to prototype devices and create Alexa commands with just a few lines of code,” said Scott Tidey, Sr. Vice President, North American Sales and Marketing, Hamilton Beach. “We look forward to using the Alexa Connect Kit to reduce time to market for new product lines while simultaneously offering more of the features our consumers want.”
Regardless of the type of smart device you build, you can submit it for certification via the Works with Alexa (WWA) program. WWA raises the bar on responsiveness, reliability, and functionality, ensuring your customers have a great smart home experience. When your products are certified, they can carry the Works with Alexa badge in the Amazon Smart Home Store and on product packaging. This increases customer confidence that your product integrates seamlessly with Alexa. Visit the Works with Alexa program page for the full list of detailed requirements.
Amazon is making it easier every day for developers and device makers to create new experiences for customers, and Alexa smart home development tools now provide everything you need to deliver rich, delightful customer experiences for all your devices. We can’t wait to see what you build. Learn more about connecting devices to Alexa.