Amazon Releases New Developer Tools To Bring Alexa Voice Service To Commercial Products

Amazon on Thursday revealed the Alexa Voice Service device software development kit (SDK) with the hopes of bringing its voice tool to commercial products.

With the new SDK toolset, commercial companies can build Amazon's Alexa service into their products, enabling voice features like streaming media, speech recognition, notifications, weather reports and other voice-enabled capabilities.

"We are excited to bring the AVS Device SDK to developers to make it easier to add voice to their products and get to market faster," said Priya Abani, Director of Amazon Alexa, in a blog post. "As we continue to open up new tools and resources to help commercial developers build more Alexa-enabled devices, we're offering customers more choice around where to access Alexa."

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According to Amazon, the new SDK provides C++-based libraries that enable devices to process audio inputs and triggers and handle all Alexa interactions. The SDK is currently available for developers and Alexa enthusiasts – and includes tutorials, documentation and a sample app to start.

The company said it has been working with more than 50 commercial device makers. These manufacturers include Technicolor, which has been using the SDK to bring Alexa to its Home Networking Gateway and Extender broadband devices, and Senic, which has integrated Alexa into its smart home interfaces.

Amazon's commercial drive for Alexa comes weeks after Microsoft said it is partnering with HVAC vendor Johnson Controls to build a Cortana-enabled connected thermostat for workplaces.

Microsoft launched a video that showed the features behind its new connected thermostat, GLAS, in homes, workplaces and vertical market environments. The GLAS thermostat, which will be built by Johnson Controls, will include a touch-screen display that will enable customers to control their room temperatures and check their energy usage.

"I think Alexa and voice as an interface has tremendous potential for IoT applications, and it is now a regular discussion topic in both our innovation workshops and as part of our experience design activities," said Scott Udell, vice president of IoT Solutions at Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners, an AWS channel partner. "Having the Alexa developer tools and API's available will only accelerate voice's adoption as a primary interface for emerging applications."

Udell said that Amazon Voice Services is a good solution for specific vertical "hands free" applications, like those found on manufacturing floors or in healthcare.

"Voice is a powerful way to quickly gain a status update or receive an alert without having to access a keyboard and screen," said Udell. "Consider the potential for step-by-step, hands-free instructions for a field service engineer while calibrating equipment or making repairs. Having real-time access to sensor data that is delivered by voice can significantly speed these repairs while reducing errors."