Now even the smallest, dumbest connected devices can be powered by Alexa

Amazon has announced that developers will now be able to build Alexa into most devices. The magic trick? Make Alexa work in the cloud.
Written by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, Contributor

Ahead of the AWS re:Invent event in Las Vegas next week, Amazon is already giving users a myriad of sneak-peeks into what to expect from its big cloud computing conference. 

One of the company's promises is to bring Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to every part of our home, office or even hotel rooms by making it easier to build the voice assistant into any type of connected device.

You might think that Alexa is already everywhere – from Echo speakers to microwaves. But in reality, adding voice control to a piece of hardware is complex, expensive, and requires large amounts of processing power within the device.

SEE: Amazon Alexa: An insider's guide (free PDF)

To benefit from AVS, products need at least 100 megabytes of RAM and an ARM Cortex A Class microprocessor. In other words, Amazon's voice assistant is a luxury reserved to the select few.

Or rather, was: the latest announcement from AWS promises that Alexa will now be available for devices with low-powered chips and as little as 1MB of RAM. 

The improvement comes from the cloud. Amazon is offloading the processing requirements of AVS to its cloud, which means that tasks such as media retrieval, buffering or audio decoding won't need to be carried out on the device.

The only thing the device will need to do is to be able to detect the wake word to start the Alexa functionality – a much simpler requirement that Amazon claims will halve the cost of hardware engineering.

Through a secure MQTT connection, the product will then be able to communicate with AVS in the cloud via the device maker's AWS account. 


Amazon is offloading the processing requirements of AVS to its cloud, which means that tasks such as media retrieval, buffering or audio decoding won't be need to be carried out on the device.  

Image: AWS

Amazon has said that the connection will follow the same privacy protocols as other Alexa devices, with a blue light indicating whether or not the device is listening for a wake word. 

Developers can get started using development kits, which are already available to prototype a device, implement AVS and test the final product.  

In theory, the new technology should mean that we will interact with Alexa in even more lightbulbs, light switches and various other smart home devices.

SEE: How Apple's HomePod turned my friends into rude troglodytes

Home products manufacturer iDevices, for example, has trialled the AVS development kits to install voice assistance in its light switches.

While the company had all the back-end infrastructure and design for its product, it needed a cloud platform to execute IoT features; and Amazon claims the new AVS protocol allowed it to "accelerate time to market and optimize infrastructure costs".

AWS is currently the favorite cloud provider for IoT developers, holding over 51% of market share. And with IoT expected to be worth $212 billion by the end of 2019, it looks like Alexa is not anywhere near reaching the limits of its power. 

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