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Amazon widens smart device portfolio for homes and cars

In the market for smart home products, Amazon has been going from strength to strength, dominating many device categories with solid offerings. The new products it announced last week are a logical, and in some cases, visionary expansion of its range of devices, not just for connecting and securing the home, but also for cars ― an area that Amazon previously made a tentative step into with its Echo Auto device in 2018.

At Amazon’s annual device launch event, the company announced several practical product updates to its line of Echo smart speakers and Fire TV streaming devices. Its new Ring products in particular, show us that it’s serious about innovation and listening to customers to deliver products that take the company in new directions.

Amazon unveiled several redesigned Echo speakers with a spherical shape, including a model for kids and one for better-quality audio. It also introduced a new Echo Show with a motorized base. Amazon is building on its current dominance in the smart speaker market, and outpacing rivals with interesting updates to get more of its Alexa-powered speakers in more rooms and more homes.

The new Echo and Echo Show 10 products support Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy and Amazon Sidewalk ― the company’s low-bandwidth, low-power wireless protocol. This will allow consumers to connect many more smart devices in their home. It will have wide-reaching implications, not least because it will allow instant access to a ready-made market for a range of Sidewalk-enabled devices, like pet trackers, smart lights and smart sensors, from Amazon and others.

In the smart security space, Amazon’s Ring-branded products have a strong market position. Its smart doorbells are synonymous with the segment, and Ring’s do-it-yourself home security kits have been disrupting the market for this type of service.

Proof that the Ring team isn’t afraid to continue to create new device categories came with the introduction of the Always Home Cam ― a flying security gadget that’s essentially a small drone with a camera. The device is set up through an app: the user walks around the house with the device to determine the flight path to the appropriate locations where Ring Alarm motion sensors or door and window sensors are located. If a sensor is triggered, the drone can fly to that area and provide the user with a live video feed. This was the quirkiest, most interesting hardware product that Ring launched.

Ring Always Home Cam

Of course, the Always Home Cam will be a magnet for privacy concerns, but it’s arguably a better solution than some of Amazon’s other devices, such as the Echo Show, which features a front-facing camera that’s always exposed. When the drone is docked, its camera is concealed in its holder. The device is designed to work when occupants are out of the house, and it also has no microphone.

More than 12 months ago, CCS Insight predicted that home robotics would progress from increasingly popular robot vacuum cleaners to autonomous robot assistants that move around a home, allowing owners to check what was going on if a sensor or smoke alarm had been triggered. At that time, we assumed it would be several years before such a device would come to fruition. With the launch of the Always Home Cam, Amazon and Ring have accelerated that vision. We expect to see more home assistant robots and drones from numerous consumer electronics companies over the next two years.

Amazon also unveiled the Ring Car Alarm, an in-car device that sends out alerts when it detects any movement with a parked car, such as bumps and break-ins. The Ring team is working with car-makers to fold a vehicle’s built-in cameras into the Ring security environment. And with the Ring Car Connect API, users can remotely check on their car’s surroundings using the front and back cameras. This service will only support certain car models, starting with Tesla.

A third product that Amazon launched for cars, Ring Car Cam, features a pair of high-definition cameras with sensors that can detect any movement and then record. Like all Ring products, it ties into the Ring ecosystem, providing live views. For these services to work, they need access to a cellular plan or a constant Wi-Fi signal.

Amazon’s main rival in the growing market for smart security is Google and its Nest brand of devices. But Amazon appears to be moving at a different pace, using the value of embedded ecosystems; once a Ring product is hardwired to a home, it’s unlikely to be removed. With its products scattered throughout the home and its services now being added to cars, Ring is gaining annuities through value-added services and connecting itself back into Amazon’s larger ecosystem.

Amazon’s success with Ring is perhaps one major reason why Google recently partnered with residential security firm ADT, buying a 6.6% stake in the company for $450 million. Google plans to use this new partnership to get Nest products into more homes, and ADT is looking to fend off competition from Ring’s do-it-yourself approach to home security.

Amazon saw something special in Ring when it acquired the company in 2018: it offered a smooth entry into the home of the future, and Amazon’s not leaving.