Amazon wants Alexa to be the brains of your smart home

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo

For the past two years, Alexa – Amazon's artificial intelligence that comes built into the Amazon Echo smart speaker and Amazon Fire TV – has steadily expanded her capabilities. That's why she might be giving herself a promotion, from your Siri-like personal assistant to the manager of your burgeoning smart home.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon has an ambitious plan for its increasingly intelligent AI and has begun partnering with smart home product manufacturers like Ecobee to ensure the next wave of domestic electronics are Alexa-enabled.

It's been ramping up its external partnerships slowly – most recently with Ford to allow some vehicles to open and close their garage door without a remote – which could potentially mean that Amazon is prepping for a more comprehensive attack on the smart home space later this year.

"We believe the next inflection point in terms of user interface is voice," David Limp, senior vice president of devices at Amazon, told The New York Times.

One possible interpretation of Amazon's growth in the IoT space is that it plans to contend with Google's likely-to-be-announced smart home products and Apple HomeKit, evolving from a hobbyist-level smart home device to a full-blown ecosystem.

Amazon seems to see real potential in the smart home space, and has already built out some of that functionality. Alexa is currently compatible with the Samsung SmartThings platform, Philips Hue lighting system and WeMo smart switches.

But even though Amazon has a head start on Google, it's not going to be an easy fight.

The Mountain View-based search giant has an army of hardware partners thanks to its egalitarian Android operating system while Amazon has few. As much as Amazon wouldn't want to admit it, enabling the 1.4 billion Android devices to control products in homes around the world might put an early kibosh on its ambitious roadmap for Alexa ... of course, Google still needs the home hardware to make that happen.

Alexa has come a long way in two years, yes, but Amazon isn't done yet.

"Someday in the future – that might be years or decades away – [Alexa] could answer everything that you would ever ask it," Limp said.

And, who knows, maybe owning two omnipotent artificial intelligences won't be such a bad thing after all.

  • Google smart home devices, eh? Check out our Google I/O 2016 preview to learn more
Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.