For as long as she can remember, Yiwen Xu had always been interested in math and science. This childhood passion for STEM, and a belief that technology can change lives inspired her to obtain a technical degree in electrical engineering from a university in Sweden, where she grew up. Xu’s time as an engineer in manufacturing plants and factories sparked her curiosity about the intricacies of business decision-making, inspiring her to earn a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now, Xu combines her technical and business interests at Amazon, where she is a critical part of the smart home developer marketing team. Xu’s efforts are vital in helping developers to build experiences and businesses with Alexa. Customers have now connected over 300 million smart home devices to Alexa, and since 2020, Works with Alexa device makers have sold over 125M devices word-wide. Experiences created by Xu and her team help developers forge meaningful connections with customers and accelerate business growth.
In this conversation Xu talks about her work at Amazon, and outlines her vision for the smart home.
What products are you responsible for?
As a part of the Smart Home Developer Marketing team, my role is to drive awareness of Alexa’s differentiating features and programs for developers, including products such as Works with Alexa (WWA), Alexa Ambient Home Dev Kit (AAHDK), and Alexa Connect Kit (ACK). We’re working on driving awareness and empowering developers with the right resources and tools to build unique smart home experiences with Alexa.
My main responsibility is to lead the go-to-market strategy for Matter. Matter is a new smart home connectivity standard developed with the aim of simplifying development for developers and making the smart home easier for customers. Amazon is a founding member of the Matter protocol, and a key contributor to the initiative because it helps further our vision for interoperability in the home. We believe in giving developers and customers choice, and that’s why we support major smart home protocols including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Mesh, Zigbee, Matter, and soon Thread.
With this open approach, developers can choose the right technology to best serve customers and their business needs. They can tap into the latest advancements like Matter, or continue to support devices in market across protocols. My goal is to help developers understand all the options they have to build with Alexa. What’s more, if they are ready to adopt Matter, they can build with Alexa’s differentiated features to deliver quality experiences for customers. A good place to get started is to visit our Smart Home Insider portal, where you can get an overview of different integration and development options with Alexa.
How does the smart home developer marketing team benefit developers and customers?
My team focuses on promoting products and tools to developers that will help them build great products and grow successful businesses with Alexa. This includes integration options and technology ranging from local protocols, Smart Home Skills, and à la carte features such as Smart Reorders to Alexa Connect Kit, our managed solutions. Our future efforts will focus on both communicating news about our innovations, and listening to developers to ensure we're building what they need to succeed.
For our customers, we work closely with developers to make the smart home easier, more convenient, and useful. Amazon has invested heavily in products and programs to ensure that customers have a great smart home experience starting from the moment they purchase a device, through setup, and everyday use. Needless to say, these programs are successful because of the joint collaboration and investments on multiple fronts with our developers. For example, the Works with Alexa badge helps customers easily find products that seamlessly integrate with Alexa, giving them the ability to customize their smart home, while Frustration-Free Setup makes device setup easy. Customers can use their devices right away to simplify their daily lives with both Alexa’s and developers’ value-add features. I am very excited about the innovations and experiences that we can build together to power the ambient smart home that just works for customers.
What are you excited about when it comes to the future of the ambient smart home?
Looking toward the future, I see that the possibilities for the ambient smart home are nearly endless. It’s exciting to see this future come to life as Alexa continues to get smarter every day. I’m looking forward to my home running on autopilot to simplify my daily life as a busy mom of two young boys, with the ability to control it when I want! I could do with Alexa’s help to do things like cooking, cleaning and laundry.
Alexa does the heavy lifting by connecting all the smart home devices and systems, exchanging information, and responding to changes in the home. For example, when I leave the home, Alexa will start the vacuum cleaner and run the air purifier automatically when the air quality is not longer healthy to keep house clean and fresh. When I am minutes away from home, Alexa will pre-heat my oven to get a head start with dinner, or when green energy is abundant, Alexa will run my laundry to reduce my carbon footprint.
Some of the uses cases are already achievable today, but require setting up routines, automations, and other configurations in advance. Imagine you don’t have to do any of that! Alexa can do all of this in the background by understanding what’s happening on a device, room, and home level. The vacuum cleaner won’t just clean the house when I leave my home — it will also do another round of cleaning in the room when my kids accidentally drop their Cheerios. This is why I’m so excited about the potential for technology to change lives and make it accessible for everyone. In ten or twenty years, we won’t even refer to it as a smart home anymore. It will just be home.