Announcing Alexa Skill Management API, Alexa Skills Kit Command-line Interface, and Events in the Alexa Skills Kit
Paul Cutsinger Sep 05, 2017
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Today we are excited to announce that developers can now programmatically manage and test their skills with the Alexa Skill Management API (SMAPI) and the Alexa Skills Kit Command-line Interface (ASK CLI), new features in the Alexa Skills Kit. The Alexa Skill Management API is a set of API operations that allows you to programmatically manage and test Alexa skills and related resources such as interaction models. Alexa Skills Kit Command-line Interface is a command-line application that lets users create, update, test, and submit Alexa skills for publishing by calling SMAPI under the hood.

Now skill builders can use ASK CLI and tool builders can use SMAPI to programmatically manage and test Alexa skills and related resources such as interaction models. These features are available today in beta in US English, UK English, and German.

We are also announcing today Skill Events, a new feature in the Alexa Skills Kit that allows developers to subscribe to a set of skill activation events including SkillEnabled, SkillDisabled, SkillAccountLinked, SkillPermissionAccepted and SkillPermissionChanged. These out-of-session events enable developers to build richer and more personalized voice experiences. Skill Events is available to all developers building skills though SMAPI. 

A Faster, More Automated Approach to Skill Management

Now you can create, update and test your Alexa skills from the command line interface. Until today, the Alexa Developer Portal was the only way to manage skills. With ASK CLI, you can automate your skill management and testing workflow, making skill updates faster and more automated. Now, you just execute simple commands that orchestrate API calls and business logic to create, update, test, or submit skills for certification. In addition to automation capabilities, the getting started experience will be familiar and intuitive for developers experienced in working with command-line interfaces who haven’t created an Alexa skill before.

All features of the Alexa Skills Kit are supported. For example, you can manage your skill’s account linking integration or permissions features (for example, street address). Your commands can be used interactively in the terminal, used in a script, or plugged in to continuous delivery pipelines to automate skill updates in the development stage. Plus, you can manage both your skill configuration and AWS Lambda code from within ASK CLI.

Achieve Higher Skill Quality with Easier Ways to Test

The new Skill Testing feature in the Alexa Skill Management API and ASK CLI allows you to programmatically test skill invocations and simulate usage of your skills without having to navigate to the Service Simulator in the developer portal The invocation capability allows you to call your Lambda or HTTPS endpoint directly, enabling you to verify that your skill endpoint returns the expected payload when invoked. The simulation feature supports end-to-end testing, including model and endpoint validation as well as support for processing user utterances. The skill testing feature allows you to run script test cases; automate new feature and regression testing in order to improve your overall skill quality.

A New Opportunity for Tool Builders

The Alexa Skill Management API enables tool builders worldwide to integrate their systems directly with the Alexa Skills Kit, making it easy for developers to manage their Alexa skills in systems they already know and trust. Previously, Alexa developers who used external tools to design and build their skills had to manually export data and paste into the developer portal.  Now, tool builders can build on top of the Skill Management API to bring the Alexa skill creation workflow into their systems.

Companies like XAPPmedia and Smartly AI are already taking advantage of the API.

"We leverage the Alexa Skill Management API to programmatically push and publish skills all from within our self-serve voice app builder. We went from copying and pasting the information to just clicking a button within our web application. We are now able to push new skills faster and with fewer errors which leaves us more time to concentrate on building better skills," says Michael Myers, Chief Product Officer of XAPPmedia

Hicham Tahiri, CEO of Smartly AI, adds, "Until now, developers using the Smartly.AI platform had to go through two distinct phases, the first was to model Dialog Flows, the second was manual importation into Alexa Skills Kit. This meant having to open two browser tabs and copy-paste all the generated assets (interaction model and the lambda function) into their Alexa Skills Kit account. This operation had to be done each time a new intent was created or changed, leading to friction and a somewhat broken UX. Now that we have the Skill Management API, we can offer a smooth experience to Alexa Skills Kit developers who choose us for their projects. They can benefit from our intuitive skill building tools without the need to spend time using copy-paste between tabs.  We believe offering automated skill creation and supervised machine learning can be a game changer in our product."

Events in the Alexa Skills Kit

Developers of all Alexa skills can now use our new skill event feature to subscribe to a set of skill activation events including SkillEnabled, SkillDisabled, SkillAccountLinked, SkillPermissionAccepted and SkillPermissionChanged. These out-of-session events will help you get better insights into skill lifecycle and customer engagement, and thereby build a richer and more personalized voice experience. The skill events feature will send updates to you on the events including skill enabling, skill disabling, account linking, adding and changing permissions. These updates will include other details about the event, such as time stamp, skill ID and access token.

For more information about these new tools and features designed to make it easier for you to build skills for Alexa, check out the following:

Build a Skill, Earn Developer Perks

Got skills? Bring your big idea to life with the Alexa Skills Kit and earn perks through our new tiered rewards system. Publish a skill in September, and earn a pair of limited-edition Alexa dev socks. If 100 unique users use your skill in its first 30 days in the Alexa Skills Store, you can also apply to receive a free Echo Dot featuring a limited-edition developer skin design. Learn more about our promotion and start building today.