In a very short period of time, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant have gone from tech novelty to an honorary member of the family for millions of people. With Alexa programming growing ever more refined and powerful, it seems as if there’s no end to what smart speakers can do around the house.
And now thanks to some recent upgrades, you can add “trick or treating management” and “voting assistance” to the list.
Why Alexa’s new tricks are a real treat
Alexa’s ability to respond to what’s happening in the world around us is one of its most intriguing qualities. A great recent example is Alexa’s capability for making event-driven announcements via smart cameras and doorbells. These announcements can be customized to fit almost any event, including holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions.
During Halloween, if a smart doorbell sees kids approaching, Alexa can be programmed to turn on house lights and music and either welcome trick or treaters to a home — or inform them that the candy supply has been depleted and the home is closed until next year.
Amazon released two new APIs (Doorbell Event Source and Motion Sensor) that allow developers to quickly and easily add this functionality. Once added, Alexa users can enable the announcement feature in Alexa’s Smart Home device settings section. This new integrated feature comes off the heels of Amazon’s recent purchase of Ring, the smart doorbell company.
Some Alexa devices (including the Echo Spot and Show, also allow for the enabling of two-way communication via smart camera between residents and those knocking on their doors.
How Alexa is creating more informed voters
Halloween isn’t the only example of Amazon working to make Alexa’s skills more timely and relevant. Prior to Election Day in the United States on Nov. 6, Amazon equipped Alexa with a much wider base of election data. This information included polling station locations, real-time election results, and detailed information about various local ballot measures — exactly the kind of information that voters need, but often have a hard time finding in one central location.
All of the election information delivered by Alexa is strenuously non-partisan; Amazon worked with three partners to help furnish the necessary data: RealClearPolitics for polling, the Associated Press for election results and Ballotpedia for ballot measure language and explanations. Amazon said it chose these sources because they were the most “credible and neutral” that the company could find.
Amazon assembled its own “war room” of data scientists, engineers, and other personnel to ensure the election information provided by Alexa was as accurate as possible. Given the recent electoral disinformation controversies involving Facebook and other social platforms, it’s not surprising that Amazon chose to prioritize neutrality and accuracy.
For Alexa users, the ability to access high-quality election data that’s updated in real time is a significant plus — and one more example of how Alexa programming is improving the lives of users in small but tangible ways.
Looking for a skilled Alexa programming partner?
As a digital marketing agency, we help clients maximize the reach and power of Alexa by creating skills that help deliver valuable products, services, and information to their consumers. If your business could benefit from a new, more sophisticated approach to Alexa programming, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.