Over the last few years, Amazon's Alexa has become a popular choice for customers looking to set up and control their smart homes. In fact, customers have connected over 300 million Alexa devices worldwide, and ask Alexa to control a device hundreds of millions of times every single week. In addition, Works with Alexa (WWA) device makers have sold over 125 million devices since 2020.
Amazon’s vision for an ambient smart home involves working with partners to develop devices and services, where technology fades into the background, and comes to the forefront only when needed. In this series, we’ll introduce you to four remarkable women who are shaping the future of smart home technology.
Nithya Chandrasekaran is the principal product manager for Alexa Connect Kit (ACK). With a strong background in computer science and engineering, Chandrasekaran’s interest in the natural and intuitive experiences provided by voice drew her to the smart-home field, where she found an excellent fit for her expertise in building developer and business-to-business enterprise products. Growing up with a father who worked for the Indian Space Research Organization, Chandrasekaran found herself immersed in the world of next-generation technology from a young age. Today, she plays a key role in shaping the next generation of ambient experiences at Amazon.
In this conversation, Chandrasekaran speaks about her role at Amazon, the Alexa Connect Kit, and her vision for the future of the ambient smart home.
Can you tell us a little about your work at Amazon?
I’m responsible for Alexa Connect Kit (ACK), a managed service that simplifies the process of building connected devices for smart home services. ACK enables device makers to build connected or smart devices and get to market easily, without worrying about managing cloud services, writing an Alexa Skill, or developing complex networking and security firmware. My team is responsible for continually furthering the state of the art when it comes to helping device makers get to market with smart home capabilities: the 2022 announcement of ACK SDK for Matter is one example of how we bring our vision to life.
How does the Alexa Connect Kit benefit developers and customers?
Building any smart device is a daunting and challenging task. The process can be complex, and requires device makers to have deep expertise in a variety of technologies, like wireless protocols. For example, device makers need to know how to do things like build and maintain cloud connectivity, maintain their device fleets, and send device and service updates to customers.
Device makers that use the ACK SDK for Matter give their customers the ability to connect their devices to Alexa or any other Matter compatible smart home assistant. Over and above basic Matter functionality, the ACK SDK for Matter gives device makers added benefits such as over-the-air (OTA) updates for device lifecycle management, and logs and metrics to help build differentiated products, without having to manage cloud services or even create a skill.
While developing the service, we wanted to stay true to our vision of making the smart home simple for customers. To give just one example of how this might happen, we enabled device makers using ACK SDK for Matter to leverage Frustration-Free Setup (FFS) for Matter. FFS for Matter will allow customers to benefit from reduced setup frustration and add Matter compliant smart home devices to Alexa with a zero-touch experience, where devices are automatically connected to the network and setup can begin as soon as the customers power on their device.
What are you excited about when it comes to the future of the ambient smart home?
I am excited about the vision of a smart home that simply works proactively on behalf of the customer when they need it, and fades away in the background when they don’t. If all the devices in our customers’ homes, such as light bulbs, switches, and power strips are connected, it allows smart-home assistants like Alexa to allow all devices to work seamlessly together, and provide a personalized, intelligent experience. My “North Star” is to provide a solid foundation for the future of smart home – one where customers can seamlessly mix and match devices and services regardless of the brand and protocol.
I have a firm belief that we need more diversity in technology to drive a better experience. Diverse opinions and perspectives are essential to improving the products and services that we offer. Personally, I'm committed to working toward this goal. Diversity doesn't just mean having a diverse workforce but also incorporating different perspectives, such as considering international factors like region-specific features and needs. We have to continually strive to build products that work exceptionally for everyone, everywhere.