My first couple of months with Alexa (a.k.a. Amazon Echo) were pretty disappointing. She could play the news, tune in to a radio station, and (with a little effort) play music from my iTunes library. She had a decent speaker and really good voice recognition, but at $149, she was an expensive radio.
And then, two weeks ago, Amazon integrated Alexa with SmartThings -another technology platform I was previously disappointed with. Basically, SmartThings lets you control various IoT devices around your house. In my case, a couple of light fixtures, a garage door, and a front door lock. But SmartThings wasn’t a great solution either. To turn on a light, I had to open my app, find the icon associated with that app, and then click to turn it on. Cumbersome. And no one else in my house could turn them on without my phone.
But when Amazon integrated them . . . magic happened. Now, I can say, “Alexa, turn on the tall lamp”, and she does. When these two systems were independent they were harder to use than a regular light switch, now, I wish every light in my house were connected.
That’s why when people poo-poo the value of IoT they really miss the point. Like this article from the NYT. The author enjoys going through and listing some of the oddest IoT ideas and then casts a Luddite dispersion over the whole connected internet space, saying that all of this experimentation is undirected, unstructured, and unproductive. But the reality is that experimentation is necessary to get to where we are. By itself my connected lightbulb isn’t much, but with Alexa . . .
Alexa, I love you.