Voice becomes smart-home star


Whirlpool highlights its product integration with Amazon’s Alexa in its exhibition booth at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Amy He / China Daily

The 2017 Conumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas emphasized smart-home products, and the star at the exhibition was Alexa, as more companies announced they are making their products compatible with the voice-controlled Amazon device, Amy He reports from Las Vegas.

It was everywhere and anywhere at last week’s 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, but its developer didn’t even have a formal presence among the 3,800 exhibitors. Nevertheless, Alexa, the talking artificial-intelligence assistant produced by Amazon, dominated.

At the techie show where voice-activated smart-home products were a key part of connected home exhibitions, the voice-controlled technology that powers Amazon’s Echo smart speakers grabbed the spotlight as companies announced that they were joining others and making their devices Alexa-compatible to control their products.

Huawei, the cellphone maker, said it will be the first smartphone to have full Alexa integration. Whirlpool offered a new range of appliances that integrate with Alexa. ADT will let owners of some of its security devices use Alexa to control them. Lenovo’s new speakers come with Alexa installed. GE Appliances, now owned by Haier, launched a number of home appliances that work with Alexa.

Buttons to vocalization

Alexa – along with Google’s Home, Apple’s Siri assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana – are giving consumers an easy way to integrate smart products into their homes because voice-activated machines are easy to configure and easy to use, taking smart-home products outside of their former niche status. And the transformation of home devices from buttons to vocalization is a market that US tech giants and their counterparts in China like Baidu and Xiaomi are racing to capture.

Sales of Amazon’s wireless speakers have outpaced competitors, giving it the dominant presence in consumers’ smart-home space. In November 2016, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that Amazon – which does not release sales figures – had sold 5.1 million of the smart speakers in the US since it debuted two years ago.