Innovation

Amazon Alexa will now talk to GE's connected appliances in smart home push

Housework just got a little easier. Alexa, the brains behind Amazon Echo, will now talk to connected GE appliances to control functions.

GE's connected appliances can now talk to Alexa.

Image: GE Appliances

GE Appliances announced Tuesday that Alexa hands-free voice control is taking over a range of Wi-Fi connected home appliances including refrigerators, dishwashers, wall ovens, ranges, washing machines and more.

"Voice connectivity has a big role in the Internet of Things, as well as in the home," Liz VerSchure, vice president for GE Appliances, said in a press release. "Integrating our connected appliances with Alexa will help make consumers' lives easier, more productive and a little more fun."

Using Alexa to control home appliances means that users can preheat their GE Wi-Fi connected oven with just their voice, by telling Alexa to do it. If someone is wondering if their laundry load is finished, they can call out to Alexa to find out, without walking into the laundry room.

Last year, Amazon launched the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to allow developers to build Alexa skills or integrate Alexa directly into their hardware, product, or service. Alexa is the brain behind Amazon Echo, a cloud-connected speaker that offers hands-free voice control for everything from music to weather and alarms.

SEE: Amazon's free Alexa API is a boon for developers (TechRepublic)

There are more than 2,000 skills available through Alexa, with third parties such as GE Appliances adding new capabilities to connect their products through voice control. The Alexa skill for GE Appliances and Monogram products uses the name Geneva.

For example, the owner of an Alexa device can say: "Alexa, tell Geneva I want hot water," and the connected refrigerator will get hot water ready. Similarly, users can change the temperature on their hot water heater, turn on their oven, check how much time is left on the dishwasher's cycle, and more, all by asking Alexa to have Geneva do it. Think of it as one step closer to your very own Rosie the robot maid a la The Jetsons.

All connected Monogram and GE Appliances, including Cafe and Profile products will integrate with all Alexa-enabled devices including Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap, Echo Dot, and Amazon Fire TV. Soon to come will be GE Appliances connected window air conditioners. If the new connected A/C units include integrated temperature control, it could give Google's Nest some increased competition.

"We're excited to work with GE Appliances to bring hands-free voice control to major appliances like refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers and more for the first time," said Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home, in a press release. "One of our goals with Alexa is to enable voice control on every device within the home, and this collaboration gets us one step closer to achieving that. We can't wait for our Alexa customers to try it out."

This latest partnership with GE positions Amazon as a strong player in the components that make up a smart home, as Amazon allows for Alexa to be integrated into more products. Amazon is poised to become the foundation for the connected home.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. GE Appliances has teamed with Alexa, the brains of Amazon Echo, to give users the option of talking to appliances hands free.
  2. Alexa's newest skill, named Geneva, is integrated in all connected GE appliances.
  3. Alexa now has more than 2,000 skills, and Amazon is poised to become the primary smart home enabler through voice control.

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