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Ford bringing Amazon Alexa and high speed Wi-Fi to new vehicles at CES 2017

At CES 2017, Ford announced that it would be bringing Amazon's voice service Alexa to certain cars in 2017, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability to some models in 2018.

Ford will soon bring Amazon's Alexa voice service and high-speed Wi-Fi hotspot functionality to certain vehicles in its lineup, the company announced at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

For those unfamiliar, Amazon Alexa is what powers the Amazon Echo smart home hub. So the integration with Ford vehicles could prove a unique blend of connected car and connected home technologies. By the end of 2017, the Amazon Alexa integration will be available in the Focus Electric, the Fusion Energi, and the C-Max Energi.

"Consumers increasingly want to stay connected to their homes while on the move," Ford's executive director of Connected Vehicle and Services, Don Butler, said in a press release. "Linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to vehicles via SYNC would fulfill that desire, and allow consumers to connect with their vehicles even when they aren't behind the wheel."

SEE: CES 2017 Special Coverage (CNET) | CES 2017 (TechRepublic) | CES 2017: The Big Trends for Business (ZDNet)

Alexa will integrate through Ford's SYNC infotainment system, allowing users to access their home from their car and vice versa, a press release stated. According to that release, users will be able to start and stop, or lock and unlock the vehicle using Alexa. Users will also be able to check their fuel levels, mileage, and the amount of charge left on an electric vehicle.

From the car, users will be able to interact with other smart home devices as well. Drivers could ask Alexa to turn lights on or off, or check if their security system is on or if their garage door is closed, the release said. Alexa can also alert users of their next appointment, which could be helpful for business travelers, or consultants who often drive to multiple client sites in a day.

The integration isn't surprising, given that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is ramping up its investments in connected car services. Amazon has a specific Alexa Automotive version, and its principal solutions architect CJ Frost said that the company views connected cars as IoT endpoints.

Additionally, on Wednesday, Ford also unveiled that it would be adding built-in Wi-Fi hotspot capability to select 2018 vehicle models. The SYNC Connect 4G LTE hotspot will be powered by AT&T's network, and supports up to 10 separate devices at one time, according to a press release.

The hotspot will also be accessible up to 50 feet away from the vehicle when it is parked, and the release noted that the feature is intended for "those who use their cars as a mobile office." This could be helpful for road warriors who may have trouble staying connected while traveling.

The hotspot service will be available as a standalone plan, or as part of a shared data plan for existing AT&T customers.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Ford will be integrating Amazon Alexa and high-speed Wi-Fi in new vehicles over the next couple years, as announced at CES 2017.
  2. The Alexa integration marks an interesting convergence of connected cars with smart home technology, meaning that we could see Google trying to integrate Google Home technology in some vehicles.
  3. The integrated hotspot will be powered by AT&T's 4G LTE network, and can support 10 devices.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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