NEW YORK – April 12, 2019 – The Amazon Echo, Dot and other Alexa-enabled devices don't often play well together in the same house – particularly if they're within earshot of each other. That wasn't a problem because most of us had only one smart speaker – if we had any at all.
But that's changing fast. Amazon says the number of households with more than one smart assistant-enabled device doubled last year. That lends credence to an independent survey taken late last year declaring that nearly 1 in 4 US households had a voice-enabled device inside – and about 40 percent of those have more than one.
Which can only mean that more of us are experiencing the headaches of these early days in the Alexa multidevice experience.
Seen in that light, mesh Wi-Fi pioneer Eero, which Amazon announced it was buying, is not just another pretty peripheral in the online shopping giant's growing connected home portfolio, such as ecobee and Ring, which the company invested in last year.
More likely, Eero's whole-home networking smarts will turn out to play a pivotal role in making Alexa intuitive to use, smartly identifying where you are and what devices should listen and respond to you. And oh, by the way, offer more privacy. That's a far cry from how it works today.
It doesn't have to be this way. And building the on-site command-and-control center around Eero will go a long way toward taking the whole-home Alexa experience to the next level.
The concept is simple, at least in theory. In tech, they call it "hybrid cloud," or "intelligent edge." Rather than putting most of the intelligence in the cloud, as the Alexa service is now designed, an on-site hub would have the authority and the smarts to run things locally. Which means that unless it's downloading a new song you asked it to play or looking up something for you on the internet, it wouldn't be connected to the cloud service.
Such a setup would have myriad advantages. For one, Wi-Fi routers have gobs more processing horsepower than all the Echos and Dots you'd ever want to buy. And because it's managing communications between all the connected devices, the intelligent hub would have a better view of the whole house. It would also have more data and smarts to help it decide which family member is asking for what – and from where in the house.
With all that capability and information, the hub would be able to handle more requests locally, which means it could still manage more household tasks, even when the internet goes down.
Copyright 2019, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Mike Feibus. Mike Feibus is principal analyst at FeibusTech, a Scottsdale, Arizona, market strategy and analysis firm focusing on mobile ecosystems and client technologies