Are Alexa Enabled Devices a blessing for the home automation industry? We try to answer this question through the lens of marketing and by noting the similarities between the revolutionary iPhone and Amazon Echo trends.
A lot of us tech enthusiasts envision a future in which our lives are seamlessly integrated with tech and smart assistants are all around. Interconnected, at the edge of artificial intelligence capabilities, the future seems like an obsolete statement for home automation, as it seems as if the future is now.
Yet, it somehow isn’t. And being so close to the heart of the industry of smart home tech, we can safely say that one of the biggest hurdles is the issue of marketability and actual market penetration.
The Tech Revolution Mindset
Home automation isn’t anything new. In fact, its roots can be traced back to the very first mechanical automation concepts far back in the past, as noted in our 10 amazing facts on the history of the smart home piece. Yet, age and functionality don’t seem to be the only parts of the equation of evolution.
No one expected the iPhone to be such a revolutionary device. All smartphone manufacturers at the time, including the then giant of Nokia, were considering Blackberry-style devices to be the future. Yet, now we all are in comfort with the fact “qwerty” is but a software-driven touch interface for the smartphone.
It took one visionary company with billion-dollar investors on board to take a leap of faith and introduce us to something that we didn’t know we need. And in this one sentence lies the key of why smart home isn’t “mainstream” outside of the infamous Amazon Echo.
Introducing the Amazon Echo
For an industry to be healthy, it needs investors, innovative minds to push the boundaries of what’s possible and for there to be a demand for a product. Yet, over the past 20 to 30 years, due to the high influx of innovation and the huge adoption of new products, the tech sector has been left in marketing shambles.
Same goes true for the smart home. The tech is there. And it isn’t even that expensive compared to the functionality it provides, as we noted in our Z-Wave vs. Zigbee product price comparison recently. Yet, people don’t seem to be as interested in functional devices, but rather the marketing of “innovation”. According to smart appliance sales reports, almost 82% of all home automation sales go towards smart home speakers, thermostats and TVs.
That leaves a relatively narrow portion to actually helpful devices, such as smart lighting, robot vacuums and home security. Of course, that is not to say that thermostats and speakers aren’t at all helpful. Especially the former can vastly reduce home energy savings.
However, it does indicate a broader notion that a bigger portion of home automation sales are driven by factors other than usability and functionality.
Alexa-Enabled Devices within a Broader Industry
The power of marketing is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have helpful and useful marketing, where it informs the customer about the functionality and vision of a product and allows them to make an educated purchase. On the other, it can be used to increase the odds of a purchase for a company, despite clear indication of better or improved functionality that warrens the higher price tag.
This couldn’t be more clear than the current trend of the “Alexa-Enabled” label put on a variety of home products and appliances.
The high numbers of Amazon Echo devices sold is truly a blessing in disguise for the industry. It enables the sale of new and innovative products. To reiterate the similarities between the iPhone revolution and the Echo, similarly to how the App Store empowered developers ultimately creating an ecosystem, Echo has the opportunity to empower the sale of “Alexa-Enabled” devices in the home automation space.
Yet, this isn’t false for immoral price increases and resale of products that might not necessarily be as useful to the end-consumer, under the same voice assistant label as well.
What can you do as a consumer?
Here, the power lies is evenly split between the end-consumer and the marketers. On one hand, marketers and product manufacturers should aim to justify the “Alexa-Enabled” label with actual functionality that helps the end consumer.
On the other hand, your purchasing decisions make or break an industry. With that, you should always keep your decisions straightforward and informed. Before buying the first item of choice that is able to talk with Alexa, make sure to do your due diligence and research.
Which Amazon-Alexa enabled product is better? How can I use this functionality in my everyday life?
A clear choice would be products that are already way and above smart home functionality ready. Alexa compatible robot vacuums, garage door openers or security cameras and locks are a true no brainer.
But would you really need to tell your toilet to “flush” through Alexa? Well, this is a choice you’d have to make.
And of course, we always like to hear from you. Make sure to leave us a quick comment with your thoughts below and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly updates with the latest Alexa enabled devices and other smart home news, tips and tricks.