Alexa for Residential, which the company rolled out on Thursday, is a solution to bring the virtual voice assistant to multi-unit buildings. Like with a regular Alexa product, it allows users to do things like turn on the music, control lights and heating, read out a to-do list or make a call without touching a phone. The technology will be available through regular Echo products but built for large-scale buildings to connect to a central building system and reset whenever someone moves in or out of a unit.
Some other additional features include being able to connect with management and ask questions about the unit — particularly useful for prospective tenants touring for the first time, who may want to ask about the square footage or price of the building. The idea, Amazon’s Head of Alexa Smart Properties Liron Torres told Inman, is to make it easier for building owners and property managers to offer voice assistant products in the entire building rather than the one-by-one approach that some have taken in the past.
A building resident interested in using a voice assistant would have normally had to either install it on their own or ask the property manager to work it into the system. Some high-end buildings offers renters free Echo products but the need for a new set-up each time made it not a particularly practical choice for renters.
“One of the things we’ve been hearing from our customers over and over is that they feel like they really have to own a home in order to be part of the smart home experience,” Torres said. “We wanted to offer a service that allows integrators and properties to enable voice and smart home experiences for residents from the moment when they walk in the door.”
Amazon will be working with integrators IOTAS, STRATIS IoT and Sentient Property Services to bring the product into buildings. The company is not releasing details about the cost but says it will work out solutions with interested building managers and builders.
The voice assistant will already be integrated into the apartment without requiring the tenant to set up an account unless they choose to link an existing one. Torres said that, to ensure security, residents will have access to the device’s privacy settings to which property managers do not have access. Recorded messages are deleted at the end of every day while accounts are reset whenever a tenant moves out.
Those who are not interested in using it can opt out or not turn on the device.
“When we built the solution, we really built it with privacy first in mind,” Torres said. “Amazon never shares any data or voice recordings with the building or the integrator regardless of the state of the device. Whether it is vacant, occupied, connected or not connected, no data is shared with the building.”
Torres is hoping that the Alexa for Residential will herald a larger push to bring voice assistants to more buildings and a larger portion of the population. The goal, she said, is to turn it from a nice-to-have feature to a basic component of a home.
“It’s not just for the high-end apartments that can afford to keep switching the Alexas and giving them out for free,” Torres said. “With Alexa for Residential, we believe that more apartment buildings and more properties will be able to enable smart home experiences and voice experiences for their residents.”