Amazon announcing Alexa-enabled hardware products including new security

Amazon announcing Alexa-enabled hardware products including new security

Last week all eyes were on Apple and Fall 2018 new model iPhone launch and this week Amazon is taking the new product spotlight as it announces a number of new Echo products and others that include its digital assistant, Alexa. These products confirm that our view several years ago that voice would be the next killer interface is ringing true. Amazon also unveiled Amazon Guard, which moves it further into our Safety & Security investing theme as it partners with security companies like ADT. That leaves us wondering what the economic relationship will be between these two groups, and if it will add to Amazon’s subscription revenue stream…

Executives at Amazon’s secret event at its headquarters in Seattle on Thursday announced a new suite of Echo products including a microwave, clocks and security devices as well ways to integrate Alexa with third-party devices. , further cementing the company’s commitment to the voice assistant space.

The company announced a brand new Echo Dot, its most popular Echo speaker. The new product, which will cost $49.99, will be 70 percent louder and have clearer sound. It will have a completely new industrial design, and the fabric face will come in multiple colors. Orders for the new Echo Dot start on Thursday, and it will ship next month to every country Alexa is available.

Amazon also announced a new Echo Plus, which has cleaner sound and better bass. It too will have a fabric design, as well as an internal temperature sensor inside. This new model will build on last year’s smart home hub, and will add lock controls so you can control your home even if your WiFi goes down.

Other new devices an Amazon Basic Microwave, which is deeply integrated with Alexa inside. It works in conjunction with a nearby Echo, but it failed during a test on Thursday. However, it eventually successfully started microwaving a potato based on voice commands. The microwave will cost $59.99, and ship later this year.

Amazon also introduced a $25 Alexa smart plug. The device will allow users to plug items directly into it, and it will automatically sync with an existing Echo. A demo of the product allowed Limp to set up a smart lamp in 20 seconds using only voice commands.

The company also announced an Echo Wall Clock, which can be used to set timers and other time-based Alexa tasks. It will cost $30, and ship later this year.”You never have to worry about daylight savings,” Limp said. “The motor will automatically change.”

Amazon also moved further into the security space. Alexa Guard will take your Echo, smart lights, and security service provider if you have one, and sync them all together. Users could say, “Alexa, I’m leaving,” and the product will move all your Echo-linked devices into guard mode. Other smart alerts include away lighting mode, so smart lights will intelligently randomize lighting to make it look like someone is home. Alexa Guard will be integrated with Ring and home alarm company ATD to begin.

The company also announced new Ring stick up security cameras, which come in wired and wireless versions. It will be available for $179.99 later this year.

A new Echo Input will give Alexa-capabilities to existing speakers, microphones and Bluetooth devices. Amazon will sell the product with partners, including Bose, for $34.99.

The company also announced the Echo Link Amp and Echo Link, which can couple with higher-end speakers. The Echo Link Amp will be available for $199 later this year, and the Echo Link for $299 early next year.

An Alexa Connect Kit will allow the smart assistant to be added to other devices made by third-parties. P&G and Hamilton Beach are among the partners.Echo will also soon be able to handle left and right inputs for stereo sound. To improve the listening experience, Amazon announced an Echo Sub to add additional bass. It will ship this month for $129.99. Pre-orders begin Thursday.

Source: Amazon announcing Alexa-enabled hardware products

Today it’s the mobile web, tomorrow the voice-driven web

Today it’s the mobile web, tomorrow the voice-driven web

As we saw in 3Q 2017 earnings results from Asset-lite Business Model company Alphabet (GOOGL) and Connected Society company Facebook (FB), the current platform of chose among consumers is mobile. We are, however, seeing the seeds of the next technology revolution — voice-powered intelligent solutions — with more players entering the fray. The current leader is Amazon (AMZN) with its multitude of Echo devices, but there is also Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google Home and later this year Apple (AAPL) is expected to unveil its HomePod offering.

As voice interface technology improves and even faster mobile networks come to market, how long will it be before the mobile web is replaced by the voice-driven web? If that’s the case, it would not bode well for companies like Synaptics (SYNA) and Logitech (LOGI) that make peripherals such as mice, keyboards, trackpads and touchpads.

Voice-AI could prove the way along with VR showrooming, that E-commerce accelerates in the 2020s as an improved channel for trusting consumers and younger mobile natives increasingly entering the voice AI economy.

In that world, it will be voice suggestions, instead of mobile Ads that win your heart and subtly influence your shopping habits based upon your Amazon or Google history. Goodbye Facebook.

Amazon as a first mover and with a variety of Alexa devices, holds as dominant if not more so a role in the future of voice activated shopping as Amazon AWS does in the cloud.

With iOS devices changing from Microsoft’s bing back to Google for its web search results we have to assume that the likes of Cortana and even Siri have fallen too far behind Alexa and Google Assistant in the race to be the most useful and ubiquitous personal assistants. Meanwhile for Mandarin speakers the Tmall Genie of Alibaba, retails for around $73.00 (RMB 499).

CONCLUSIONAs the mobile web gives way to the Voice-AI web of IoT and a different kind of smart city such as the rise of food delivery apps, and later autonomous vehicles and drone delivery hubs, the voice interface remains the fastest growing retail technology trend that could impact the future of commerce.

Source: The Future of Voice Activated Shopping – Star Cloud Services

Google embraces Safety & Security to challenge Amazon’s Alexa

Google embraces Safety & Security to challenge Amazon’s Alexa

The company formerly known as Google that goes by the name Alphabet is quietly expanding its hardware reach. First by scooping up certain HTC assets that helped develop Google’s Pixel smartphone, which we think is a back-door way of protecting its core search business as voice becomes a more dominant method of search. Second, Google is embracing our Safety & Security theme at Nest as it rolls out several new products, including a new alarm system that comes with Google Assistant support. Given the home insurance break once receives once an alarm system is installed, we suspect Google is looking to challenge Amazon and its Alexa digital assistant using an end-around strategy.

Among the announcements, the company is introducing a new alarm system called ‘Nest Secure’ that comes in the form of a $499 home security starter kit.

The kit includes all components of the Secure system including one base called Nest Guard where an alarm, keypad and motion sensor are housed, two ‘Nest Detect’ motion sensors that you can put around your house, and two ‘Nest Tag’ key fobs for controlling the system.

The battery-powered Nest Detect sensors can be used to detect both motion and open or close movements and will be available to purchase separately to expand the system for $59 each. Nest Tags will be available to purchase separately for $25.The company is also taking the wraps off a new video doorbell camera called ‘Nest Hello’ launching sometime early next year in the US and Canada before coming to Europe later in 2018

And lastly, Nest is introducing an outdoor version of its security cam called Nest Cam IQ Outdoor that comes with face recognition and, of course, weatherproofing for $349.

The company is also announcing Google Assistant support, although there is unfortunately still no mention of HomeKit despite the company earlier this year confirming that it would consider it.

Source: Nest announces ‘Secure’ alarm system, ‘Hello’ video doorbell, & Nest Cam IQ Outdoor (still no HomeKit) | 9to5Mac

Barclays combines Disruptive Technologies with Cashless Consumption for voice payments

Barclays combines Disruptive Technologies with Cashless Consumption for voice payments

Several quarters ago we shared our view that after capacitive touch, voice would be the next interface to watch. We’ve seen adoption growth in smartphones with Apple (AAPL) and Siri, Microsoft (MSFT) and Cortana, and then in intelligent speakers like Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa powered Echo products. We’ve even read about licensing deals between Amazon and appliance as well as auto manufacturers for the Alexa technology. Now Barclays (BCS) is combining this Disruptive Technology with our Cashless Consumption theme to enable voice payments.

If you have a Barclays bank account, you can now make payments simply by instructing Siri to do it.

The feature, added to the latest version of the company’s iOS app, uses the Siri integration for payment apps Apple introduced with iOS 10.

PayPal took advantage of this last November, but banks have been slow to do so …NordVPNMaking a payment is as simple as ‘Hey Siri, pay John Appleseed $10 with Barclays.’

As with PayPal, the exact wording shouldn’t be important so long as you specify the person, the amount and Barclays.

To prevent someone picking up your unlocked phone and asking Siri to make a payment to them, Barclays says several protections are in place. First, you need to opt-in to the feature.

Source: Barclays bank now lets customers make payments via Siri | 9to5Mac

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Earlier this month we had CES 2017 in Las Vegas, a techie’s mecca of new whiz-bang products set to hit the market, in some cases later this year, but in others in 2018 and beyond. A person tracking the CES trade shows over the years likely remembers the changes in inputs from clunky keyboards and standalone number pads to rollerball driven mice to laser based ones, which gave way to trackpads and touchscreen technology. Among the sea of announcements this year, there were a number that focused on one aspect of our Disruptive Technology investing theme that is shaping up to be the next big change in interface technology — voice recognition technology.

Over the years, there have been a number of fits and starts with voice technology dating all the way back to 1992 when Apple’s (AAPL) own “Casper” voice recognition system that then-CEO John Sculley debuted on “Good Morning America.” As the years have gone by and the technology has been further refined, we’ve seen more uses for voice recognition technology in a variety of applications and environments ranging from medical offices to interacting with a car’s infotainment system. As far back as 2004, Honda Motor’s (HMC) third generation Acura TL sported an Alpine-designed navigation system that accepted voice commands. No need to press the touchscreen while driving, just use voice commands, (at least that was the dream — but for those of us that tried to change the radio station and ended up switching the entire system over to Spanish, it wasn’t so useful!)

More recently with Siri from Apple, Cortana from Microsoft (MSFT), Google Assistant from Alphabet (GOOGL) and Alexa from Amazon (AMZN) we’ve seen voice recognition technology hit the tipping point. Each of those has come to the forefront in products such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home that house these virtual digital assistants (VDAs), but for now, one of the largest consumer-facing markets for voice interface technology has been the smartphone. Coming into 2016, market research and consulting firm Parks Associates found that nearly 40 percent of all smartphone owners use some sort of voice recognition software such as Siri or Google Now.

In 2016, the up and comer was Amazon, as sales of its Echo devices were up 9x year over year this past holiday season and “millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide this year.” If you’re a user of Amazon Echo like we are, then you know that each week more capabilities are being added to the Alexa app such as ordering a pizza from Dominos (DPZ), calling for an Uber, checking sports scores, shopping with your Amazon Prime account, hearing the local weather forecast and getting the latest news or perhaps some new cocktail recipes.

Not resting on its laurels, Amazon continues to expand Echo’s capabilities and announced that Prime members can voice-order their next meal through Amazon Restaurants on their Alexa-enabled devices including the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Once an order is placed, Amazon delivery partners deliver the food in one hour or less. Pretty cool so long as you have Amazon Restaurants operating in and around where you live. We’d point out that since you’re paying with your Prime account, which has a credit card on file, this also expands Amazon’s role in our Cashless Consumption investment theme as does Prime Now which lets Prime members in cities in which the service is available get deliveries in under two hours from Amazon as well as from local participating stores.

But we digress…

Virtual digital assistants cut across more than just smartphones and devices like Amazon Echo and the Google Home. According to a new report from market intelligence firm Tractica, while smartphone-based consumer VDAs are currently the best-known offerings, virtual assistant technologies are also beginning to emerge within other device types including smart watches, fitness trackers, PCs, smart home systems, and automobiles – hopefully, this time not switching us into Spanish.

We saw just that at CES 2017 with some landscape changing announcements for VDAs such as withAlphabet that had several announcements surrounding its Google Home product, including integration into upcoming Hyundai and Chrysler models; and acquiring Limes Audio, which focuses on voice communication systems, and will likely be additive to the company’s Google Home, Hangouts and other products. Microsoft also scored a win for Cortana with Nissan.

While those wins were impressive, the big VDA winner at CES was Amazon as it significantly expanded its Alexa footprint on deals with LG, Dish Network (DISH), Whirlpool (WHR), Huawei and Ford (F). In doing so Amazon has outflanked Alphabet, Microsoft and even Apple in the digital assistant market, but then who doesn’t find Siri’s utility subpar? To us, that’s another leg to the Amazon stool that offers more support to the share alongside the digital shopping/services, content, and Amazon Web Services businesses.

To be fair, Apple originally did not license out its Siri technology. It was only in June 2016 that Apple announced it would open the code behind Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving outside apps the ability to activate from Siri’s voice commands, and potentially endowing Siri with a wide range of new skills and datasets, potentially making a mistake similar to the one that originally cost Apple the Operating System market to Microsoft. Amazon, on the other hand, has been eager to bring other offerings onto its Alexa platform.

Tractica forecasts that unique active consumer VDA users will grow from 390 million in 2015 to a whopping 1.8 billion worldwide by the end of 2021 – Juaquin Phoenix’s Her is closer than you’d think!  During the same period, unique active enterprise VDA users will rise from 155 million in 2015 to 843 million by 2021.  The market intelligence firm forecasts that total VDA revenue will grow from $1.6 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2021.

In the past when we’ve seen new interface technologies come to market and move past their tipping point, we tended to see slowing demand for the older input modalities. Case in point, a new report from Technavio forecasts compound annual growth of just 3.63 percent for the global computing mouse market between 2016-2020. By comparison, Global Industry Analysts (GIA) expects the global market for multi-touch screens to reach $8 billion by 2020 up from $3.5 billion in 2013, driven by a combination of mobile computing and smart computing devices. For those who are less than fond of doing time calculations, that equates to a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent. We’d also point out that’s roughly half the expected VDA market in 2021.

One potential wrinkle in that forecast is the impact of VDAs. Per eMarketer, 31 percent of 14-17-year-olds and 23 percent of 18-34-year-olds regularly use a VDA.

Putting these two together, we could see slower growth for touch-based interfaces should VDA adoption take off. Looking at the recent wins by Amazon and Google, factoring in that Apple and Comcast (CMCSA) are favoring voice technology in Apple TV and XFINITY TV and growth in the smartphone market is stalling, there is reason to think the GIA forecast could be a tad robust, especially in the outer years.

Turning our investing gaze to companies that could be vulnerable should the GIA forecast prove to be somewhat aggressive, we find Synaptics (SYNA), whose tag line is “advancing the human interface,” and the “human machine interface” company that is Alps. Both of these companies compete in the smartphone, wearables, smart home, access control, automotive and healthcare markets — the very same markets that are ripe for voice technology adoption.

From a strategic and thematic perspective, one could see the logic in Synaptics and Alps looking to shore up their market position and customer base by expanding their technology offering to include voice interface. Given the head start by Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook, while Synaptics and Alps could toil away on “made here” voice technology efforts, the time-to-market constraints would make acquiring a voice technology company far more practical.

Here’s the thing, we’ve already seen Alphabet acquire Limes Audio to improve its voice recognition capabilities. As anyone who has used Apple’s Siri knows, it’s far from perfect in voice recognition and voice to text. In our view, this means larger players could be sniffing around voice technology companies in the hopes of making their VDAs even smarter.

In many respects we’ve seen this before whenever a new disruptive technology takes hold alongside a new market opportunity — it pretty much resembles a game of M&A musical chairs as companies look to improve their competitive position. In our view, this means companies like Nuance Communications (NUAN), VoiceBox, SoundHound, and MindMeld among other voice technology companies could be in high demand.

Disclosure: Nuance Communications (NUAN) shares are on the Tematica Select List. Both Nuance Communications and Synaptics, Inc. (SYNA) reside in Tematica’s Thematic Index.

Hyundai The First To Embrace Amazon’s Alexa? 

Hyundai The First To Embrace Amazon’s Alexa? 

The Connected Car market lurched forward as Hyundai now offers the ability to use Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa voice interface to control the car. Voice controls inside the car have been around for some time in products from the Honda Motor Company (HMC) and others, but the voice technology has made even Apple’s (AAPL) Siri look like a winner. Aside from Alexa’s high marks for understanding the user, it also brings the ability to send commands from other Alexa powered devices – imagine sending a shopping list to the car before you head out! While Hyundai is the first, we rather doubt this is an exclusive arrangement and odds are we will soon see similar announcements – Alexa powered or not – from the likes of Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Volkswagen (VLKAY) and other car manufacturers.

Hyundai’s luxury car division, Genesis, said Thursday that its currently available G80 and soon-to-be-available G90 will be the first cars to allow owners to control a number of the car’s functions using Alexa, the voice recognition program from Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

To take advantage of the system, the car’s owner can issue commands to Amazon products like the Echo, Echo Dot and Tap that will then be transmitted to the car and executed. For example, an owner can say something like, “Alexa, tell Genesis to unlock my car,” and presto!

Source: Amazon’s Alexa Hits the Road With Hyundai – Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) – 24/7 Wall St.

Forget The Finger, It’s Becoming All About That Voice

Another data point that the input interface is moving past hardware (keyboard, mouse, trackpad and screen) to voice. If you’ve been cooking and your hands are coated in raw chicken meat, you know the power of the voice interface associated with Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri. We see far more potential as the Connected Home and Connected Car markets mature.

Amazon, though, has much bigger plans for the technology behind Echo. It wants the Alexa Voice Service, which powers Echo, to be an ingredient in devices around the home and beyond, even if they aren’t made by Amazon.

The vision of an omnipresent intelligent assistant is one Amazon shares, in one form or another, with most other big technology companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft. Along with a handful of start-ups, these companies see their intelligent assistants as powerful new ways for users to interact with devices and internet services — just as smartphone touch screens were.

Source: Amazon Has Big Plans for Alexa: Running the ‘Star Trek’ Home – NYTimes.com