Starting on Tuesday select Brother printers will be able to tell when they are running out of ink, and order their own refills from Amazon.com.
Meanwhile, later this month certain types of GE washing machines will be able to detect when they are out of liquid detergent and ping the Seattle e-commerce company to order more. As the owner of either of these connected products, your only task will be to set up an account with Amazon and then let the sensors in the connected products notify the company when something needs replacing.
After that, it’s only a matter of opening the front door, picking up the box from Amazon and slotting in the replacement product. This is the future of Amazon’s Dash buttons, which is being called Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service. The service was announced last March when Amazon (AMZN) launched its Dash Internet-connected buttons that let customers re-order a specific product by simply pressing a button. While the buttons stole the show, the Dash Replenishment Service was the more intriguing offering.
The idea behind the platform was that manufacturers would build Internet-connected products that could link to Amazon’s ordering system. When sensors on the product detect that an item in question is low, it would automatically “call” Amazon to order more. It would only require roughly 10 lines of code to work.
On Tuesday Amazon kicked the program up several notches. In addition to launching the first three products supporting Dash Replenishment Services (the Brother printers, the GE washer and the Gmate SMART blood glucose monitor for diabetics); it expanded the number of participants to Purell so hand sanitizers around the country could now ping Amazon to get more gel. The company also opened access for its Dash Replenishment Service to consumers.
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That last move is the big one. Amazon will now let anyone, from a huge company like Procter & Gamble to everyday hobbyists, connect to its Dash Replenishment Service. Like the Amazon Echo—the Internet-connected speaker and personal assistant, which has become a stealth home automation platform—Dash Replenishment Service stands to become another platform for the Internet of things. And unlike other efforts on the market, Amazon’s platform could become an essential one, because it’s attached to a viable business model.
Providing a frictionless way to replace consumables is an excellent way to lock people into Amazon’s ordering system, deliver value to the product’s manufacturer and keep customers happy. Several other companies have said they will participate in the Dash Replenishment Service, including Samsung, Brita, Whirlpool, August, Oster, Obe, Petnet, Clever Pet, Sutro, Thync, and Sealed Air. Imagine never having to run out of a Brita water filter again, or realize that you’ve scooped your last bit of dog food and have to get to the store before Fido keels over or eats your couch.
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That’s the kind of experience that people will pay for.
Daniel Rausch, Director of Amazon Devices, tells Fortune that when the device detects that it’s time to re-order, customers will get an email and have 24 hours to cancel the request in case it’s not needed. And there’s nothing stopping someone from filling the product on their own to “trick” the sensor into never reporting an empty product to Amazon.
When asked about getting a discount for signing up for what is essentially a subscription, Rausch said that’s not happening yet. The price a customer pays for each item will be whatever the current price is on Amazon. And when asked about the potential for consolidation of delivery boxes as more and more items are automatically ordered, Rausch says, “that’s not something we are doing today. We can imagine monitoring that inventory level and taking that into consideration for the future.”
Given the ambitions for the Dash Replenishment Service and what people might use it for, I can see why Amazon needs to create its own logistics chain. Imagine how powerful such an effort would be if it gets the last mile down. Or if it was tied with something as large as prescription drugs and connected pill bottles. Finally, we have a plan that could scale QuiQui, the company that delivers pharmacy items by drone to a tiny corner of San Francisco.