'Alexa, show the front door.'

By Jonathan Vanian
June 22, 2017

Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant is getting more capable around the house.

The retail giant said Thursday that it built a new developer tool that will let companies specializing in home automation technology integrate Alexa into their products.

Now, businesses that use Amazon’s new API—the software that links together Alexa to their respective products—can create new “skills” that can imbue their technologies with voice-activated controls. Amazon refers to the apps that coders can build for Alexa as skills.

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One way companies can use the new Smart Home Skill API is to incorporate voice commands for their Internet-connected home cameras, wrote Amazon Alexa evangelist Jeff Blankenburg in a blog post. With the skill, people can ask Alexa to show them a specific video feed captured from “smart” cameras scattered around their homes, and Amazon’s Echo Show device will show the live video via its touchscreen.

“Now, customers can say things like: Alexa, show me the front door camera,’ when they hear someone knocking, or ‘Alexa, listen to the baby’s room,’ to make sure the little one has fallen asleep,” wrote Blankenburg regarding possible ways companies may want to use the new coder tool.

Amazon debuted the Echo Show in May and pitched it as another version of its popular web-connected Echo speaker that has the ability to display video and make phone calls.

Blankenburg said that several companies like Ring, Nest, and August have used the new developer tool to link Alexa to their respective home cameras. Security camera and web-connected doorbell company Ring, for example, built an Alexa skill that lets its customers—who must also own an Echo Show—see who is at their doorsteps when their visitors drop by.

“With our skill for Alexa, customers don’t have to take out their phones and open the Ring app to see their camera feed,” Ring software engineer Darrell Sommerlatt said in a statement. “With Echo Show, customers can instantly connect to their Ring video doorbell using voice.”

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