App developers can now suggest Alexa routines for you

It’s a step closer to full Alexa-driven automation as part of Amazon's "ambient home" vision.

Mike Blake / reuters

At an Alexa developer event, Amazon revealed some tools that will make it possible for developers to create Alexa routines and suggest them to users. With user permission, they can use the Alexa Ambient Home Dev Kit to integrate their devices and services with other products more seamlessly.

For instance, they might suggest a routine that instructs a robot vacuum cleaner to get to work after you leave home and arm your security system. The dev kit will also allow for changes made in one app to be replicated elsewhere. So if you rename a room in the app you use to control your smart lights, Alexa and other compatible connected services can automatically update the room's name on their end too.

Another set of APIs is all about home states for scenarios such as Home, Vacation, Dinner Time and Sleep. Modes and settings can sync between devices and services based on the situation. So, when you go to bed, the home state function can make sure certain electronics turn off, the doors lock (it they haven't already) and the thermostat adjusts the temperature to your preferred nighttime setting.

Allowing companies to create routines could be both a timesaver for consumers and open up their eyes to some smart home possibilities that they might not have previously considered. Amazon says there are now more than 300 million smart home devices that folks have connected to Alexa, so there are a lot of opportunities to improve or streamline people's lives. That is, as long as they're willing to put their faith in Amazon, a company that doesn't exactly have a spotless track record when it comes to privacy in the home. While Amazon laid out more of its vision of the "ambient home" during the event, it said it's years away from truly bringing that to fruition.

Other announcements the company made include more ways it's playing nicely with alternative voice assistants. Universal Device Commands (UDCs) and Agent Transfers (ATs) will allow for simultaneous wake words on the same device, so that it can support multiple voice assistants. With UDCs, developers will be able to let users issue a command "using any compatible voice service’s wake word, even if the service was not originally used to initiate the request." If a voice service can't handle a request, it can be transferred to another assistant through ATs. Amazon expects both capabilities to be enabled on the cloud side in the next 12 months. In addition, certain Skullcandy headphones will be able to handle Alexa and “Hey Skullcandy" requests simultaneously.

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