September 27, 2017Mike Maas
Customers already use Alexa to control smart devices in their homes millions of times each day. Today Amazon announced the next generation of Echo, Echo Plus, and a number of exciting new experiences for Alexa smart home customers including Routines, which allow customers to control multiple devices with a single voice command, and improvements to Groups, which reduce the need to remember the specific names of smart devices to control them.
In parallel with today’s announcement, we have updated the Alexa Smart Home Skill API to make it easier for you to support these and other smart home experiences with Alexa. The updates give you a single, consistent way to inform Alexa of a customer’s smart devices and their capabilities, provide the option to send asynchronous messages to Alexa from your device cloud as well as from your skill, and allow you to notify Alexa whenever your devices change state. The updated API is available today, and you can start now to ensure your products in the Amazon Smart Home store are ready when the new customer experiences become available next month.
The new Echo Plus, announced today, has a built-in smart home hub and can automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, and more. Setting up new smart home devices has never been easier for customers, and enabling Alexa to control ZigBee smart devices has also never been easier for developers.
If you produce smart home light bulbs, door locks, switches, or plugs that support the ZigBee Home Automation application profile, you can offer Alexa-based voice control through Echo Plus to your customers with little or no additional development.
If your ZigBee devices are already certified to work with Amazon Alexa, Amazon will test them with Echo Plus and alert you of any issues. If your ZigBee devices are not yet certified, you can submit them now for testing via the Works with Amazon Alexa program with the smart home hub you currently use, or you can submit them with Echo Plus once it becomes available. Either way, we’ll include testing with Echo Plus as part of the process.
Routines and the improvements to Groups will give your customers additional ways to control your devices—without requiring you to do extra work. With Routines, customers can trigger a series of actions from one or more devices using a single voice command. For example, a customer could say, “Alexa, good night" to turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV.
With the improvements to Groups, customers no longer need to remember the specific name of a smart device or group of smart devices to control them. Now a customer can place their Echo devices into smart home groups, enabling Alexa to act more intelligently on requests. For example, when a customer walks into the kitchen, they can say, “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”
The updated version of the Smart Home Skill API makes it easy for you to support these and other Alexa smart home experiences with your devices.
The updated Smart Home Skill API will be the basis for all future smart home enhancements. While customers can continue to use skills built on the existing API, you should update your Smart Home Skill now to fully support the new experiences and to be ready for future enhancements. This requires changing existing code to use the new Alexa.Discovery interface described above, updating directive processing to use the latest message formats, and implementing proactive state updates.
Migration of existing skills to use the updated API is straightforward. Our blog post, How to Migrate Your Alexa Skill to the Updated Smart Home Skill API, describes the process step-by-step. To learn more about implementing Proactive State Reporting, join us for a live webinar early next month.
“We were happy to give Amazon feedback and continuously prototype as they created this new version of the Alexa Smart Home API,” said Joe Zwack, senior API evangelist with Honeywell’s Connected Home business. “Our team was able to update our smart home skill with the beta version of the APIs in less than two weeks. This will create a better experience for developers and allow consumers more flexibility to control all of their Honeywell connected thermostats and new Lyric cameras by voice.”
The updated API is already deployed; you can begin your development today in the Alexa developer portal, and can test your new skill with existing commands using any Alexa-enabled device. Skills using the updated Smart Home Skill API can be submitted for certification now. Those that pass certification will be made available to customers when the new customer experiences are made available next month.
Works with Amazon Alexa is a certification program that raises the bar on responsiveness, reliability, and functionality, ensuring your customers have the best smart home experiences. When your products are certified, they can carry the Works with Amazon Alexa badge in the Amazon Smart Home store and on product packaging. This increases customer confidence that your products integrate seamlessly with Alexa, which in turn increases traffic to your products in the store and offline channels. Whether you build smart home devices that connect to Alexa using Echo Plus and ZigBee, or ones that connect using the Internet and a Smart Home Skill, you can submit your products for certification via the program.
Help us delight the next generation of smart home customers. Update your smart home skills and products to support the new customer experiences, and submit them for certification as soon as they’re ready.