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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Unveils More than a Dozen New Devices in a Surprise Hardware Event

Amazon on Thursday (September 20) unveiled more than a dozen devices at its surprise hardware event, held in Seattle, Washington.

The announcement included updated versions of existing Echo devices, as well as some new ones, along with a brand new camera, clock, and microwave.

It doesn’t end there; the retail giant also revealed a refreshed version of its Fire TV – the Fire TV Recast – that serves as a DVR for over-the-air (OTA) channels like ABC, CBX, NBC, and Fox,

It goes without saying that all of these devices are going to be Alexa-powered, and in case you missed the event, here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest reveals.

ECHO DOT

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Releasing in October, the updated version of the Echo Dot is priced at $49.99 and is available for pre-order with immediate effect.

It is bigger than the previous version of the Dot and now comes with a fabric finish all around the side of the circular device.

The new Echo Dot also has a 1.6-inch driver, instead of the smaller 1.1-inch driver that its predecessor came with, which means it will give you better sound, and if Amazon’s claim is anything to go by, it should be 70 percent louder.

ECHO INPUT

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Now, here’s a brand new Echo device, which looks like a smaller version of the Echo Dot but does not have speakers built into it, simply because it’s supposed to be connected to external speakers; hence, the 3.5mm jack on the back of the tiny unit.

On top of the Echo Input, you have a far-field microphone array for voice commands to the Alexa-enabled device, which the voice assistant will execute through the plugged in speakers.

While it is not yet available for pre-order, the 12.5mm tall device will sell for $34.99 sometime later this year.

The Echo Input is the ideal product for users who aren’t really looking for music out of their Echo devices but would still like to utilize Alexa with their existing system.

ECHO SUB

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Amazon has come up with the Echo Sub to help improve the sound, specifically bass, of your existing Echo devices.

It can be hooked up to a single second-generation Echo if you’re okay with mono – or two if you’re looking for that stereo effect.

The $129.99 Echo Sub is available for pre-order today, for an October ship out.

Amazon is also offering a $249.99 bundle that will include two second-gen Echos, in addition to the Sub, to give you a complete stereo package.

ECHO LINK & ECHO LINK AMP

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Conceptualized on the lines of the Sonos Connect and the recently unveiled Sonos Amp, Amazon has released its own version of the two devices in the form of the Echo Link and the Echo Link Amp.

Priced at $199.99, the Echo Link has been “designed to connect to a receiver or amplifier, with multiple digital and analog inputs and outputs for compatibility with your existing stereo equipment,” thereby giving you control over music selection, volume, and playback on your Echo devices.

The $299.99 Echo Link Amp, on the other hand, comes with a two-channel (60 watts each) amplifier built right into the device – the additional $100 making it possible for you to hook up speakers directly to it.

Both the devices are not available for pre-order, yet.

ECHO PLUS

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The updated Echo Plus announced Thursday is a regular Echo with an improved smart hub built into it, allowing the Plus to now discover new devices you add to your smart-home system.

In addition to an improved audio quality, the new Plus also boasts an integrated temperature sensor that allows you to set up temperature-based Alexa routines, like, for example, turning on a heater, or an air conditioner, when the room reaches a certain temperature.

Also, the Plus can be used offline to control your smarthome devices, should you lose Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Echo Plus has a $149.99 price tag attached to it and can be pre-ordered now for an October delivery.

AMAZON SMART PLUG

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Amazon has come up with a $24.99 Alexa-compatible Smart Plug, designed to make life less frustrating when it comes to controlling the Echo family of devices; which means you can now tell Alexa to switch on/off any smarthome device connected to the wall outlet via the Smart Plug.

Ready for pre-order today, the device will ship in October.

AMAZONBASICS MICROWAVE

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One of the more interesting devices Amazon presented at the Thursday event is the AmazonBasics Microwave that gives you access to “dozens of quick-cook voice presets, so you can cook just by asking Alexa” – thanks to the built-in Alexa Connect Kit.

The kit “includes a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE module that contains software — written and managed by Amazon — that automatically and securely connects to Amazon-managed cloud services..”

You can also use the integrated Ask-Alexa button for simple commands like “Alexa, cook for two minutes and 30 seconds on medium temperature” and Alexa will obey.

The AmazonBasics Microwave also has an integrated Dash button, so you can quickly order stuff that you use regularly right from the Microwave itself.

This counter-top microwave costs $59.99 and can be pre-ordered today for a November 14 delivery.

ECHO WALL CLOCK

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Another very interesting device coming later this year is the $29.699 Echo Wall Clock.

Designed to help you with timers, reminders, calendars, as well as changing the time, the Alexa-compatible Echo Wall Clock communicates with your other Echo devices via Bluetooth.

ECHO SHOW

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The second-generation Echo Show announced for 2018 is a huge improvement on last year’s version, with a bigger 10-inch screen, now, instead of 6 inches.

Its two speakers – one on each side – are equipped to do Dolby digital sound and promise better sound quality.

The biggest update, by far, is that it’s now capable of serving as a smart hub for your Alexa-compatible devices, which the previous version of the Plus was incapable of.

Also, the eight microphones integrated into the Echo Show make it the best Alexa device, in terms of voice detecting capabilities.

What’s more is that Amazon is also bringing Firefox, as well as its own Silk browser, to this second-generation Echo Show.

Plus, there’s going to be a Skype app that will allow video calls on the device.

The Echo Show will cost $229.99 and is available now for pre-order; it ships in October.

FIRE TV RECAST

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Amazon’s new Fire TV Recast is coming with an integrated DVR that can record television and content broadcast over-the-air through an HD antenna.

Amazon is offering two variants of the Recast; the $229.99 version can record two shows simultaneously, while the $279.99 model is capable of doing four in one go.

This super versatile device is meant to allow you to “watch, record, and replay free over-the-air programming to any Fire TV, Echo Show, and on compatible Fire tablet and mobile devices.”

Not only can you watch the games and your favorite network shows that you missed; you can even take them all over the place – thanks to the Alexa app.

ECHO AUTO

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The Echo Auto is a great new Amazon device that is, basically, an Echo for your vehicle, designed to perform in the noisy environment of your car – thanks to the 8-microphone array built into it.

In addition to the usual voice commands, the Echo Auto can also connect you to Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, or any other navigation app of your choice, when you ask Alexa for directions.

Priced at $24.99, the Echo Auto is available on an invite basis, for now.

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Uncategorized

Amazon is Now Delivering Packages Inside Parked Vehicles in 37 U.S. Cities

In another first, Amazon announced Tuesday that it is now going to deliver your packages inside your car, which, really, is an expansion of the retail behemoth’s in-house delivery system launched last year, giving the company’s delivery guys access to your home to drop those packages you ordered.

While the ‘Amazon Key’ makes it possible for couriers to unlock your front door using keypads and smart locks and connected cameras along with the Amazon Key app, its car version – the ‘Amazon Key In-Car’ will use the connected onboard technologies on select vehicles for in-car package deliveries.

Launched in collaboration with automobile giants General Motors and Volvo, the Amazon Key In-Car service is being made available to Amazon Prime subscribers who have 2015 or newer models of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, or Volvo vehicles along with active OnStar or Volvo On Call accounts.

You can check your eligibility here

https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17051031011#eligibility

Interested customers who meet the company’s qualification criteria can register their vehicles through the Amazon Key app, which will allow them to select their car as the delivery spot while shopping on Amazon.

Of course, certain conditions apply, like, for instance, the car has to be parked within a two-mile range of the specified address.
Also, the car can’t be parked in restricted-access parking areas, multi-level setups, or basements.

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“Customers have also told us they love features like keyless guest access and being able to monitor their front door from anywhere with the Amazon Key App,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon’s vice president of delivery technology.

“In-car delivery gives customers that same peace of mind and allows them to take the Amazon experience with them. And, with no additional hardware or devices required, customers can start ordering in-car delivery today.”

Wary of the security lapses it experienced with Amazon Key, this time around Amazon has built in those additional safety features to avoid any repeats of what, for example, happened in February this year, when a customer got a rude shock to find a company delivery person in his bedroom.

Also, in November, researchers noted a flaw in the Amazon Key camera that could potentially render it ineffective in the event of an attack.

The good thing with the Amazon Key In-Car is that there is no enabled keypad and camera involved here that you need to spend good money on, as you have to do with the Amazon Key in-house delivery service.

All you need, as mentioned, is a vehicle that qualifies and the mandatory OnStar or Volvo On Call and, don’t forget, you have to be in one of the 37 specified cities where the program is being made accessible.

The service allows you to track the stages of your package delivery from your own smartphone device, and your request to unlock your vehicle for delivery goes through Amazon, on to Volvo On Call, or OnStar, before it is actioned.

Delivery dudes have to scan the package to confirm delivery and relock the vehicle before they are allowed to move on to their next delivery.

Amazon and its partners, General Motors, and Volvo have all assured that the delivery staff will not be able to control any electrical feature of the vehicle once they’ve unlocked the car, with Volvo saying that it’s On Call service would still need a physical key to be able to start the car.

In the case of OnStar, the lock and unlock options allowed to the delivery people are totally isolated from the rest of the OnStar services.

This is how the process goes step by step

  • Download the Amazon Key app
  • Confirm vehicle compatibility to proceed
  • Provide your vehicle’s color and license plate number
  • App tells you to park your car within a two-block radius from the delivery address on a street-level location (no restricted-access
    parking spaces, no multi-level, or basement parking)
  • Provide a backup delivery address or request for a second in-car delivery attempt the following day
  • Once your car is set up on the app, the next time you want the in-car service, all you need to do is select the “in-car delivery” option and you’ll get an Amazon delivery notification on your mobile not only on the delivery day but the previous day as well.

While the delivery driver can unlock and lock vehicles through the Amazon Key app, customers can only do that through the OnStar or On Call app through secure encryptions and users do have the option of blocking a car delivery, should the situation demand.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon-Google Hostilities Escalate: Retail Giant to Stop Selling Nest Products

A phone call from Amazon’s retail division informing Nest of its decision not sell the company’s latest line of hardware, such as the Nest Cam IQ and its latest-generation smart thermostat, to name a couple, has played the catalyst in the ongoing feud between the two giants, an insider familiar with the call told Business Insider.

However, the call in question was made late last year when Nest was still an independent Alphabet subsidiary; it was just last month that the company was taken back into the Google scheme of things, having spent three years in the standalone wilderness.

The quality of the Nest products was not the reason behind the decision though, which, according to the Business Insider source, came from the top. As a matter of fact, the concerned Nest hardware had been getting excellent reviews on the Amazon site.

Although no names were mentioned, Nest employees believed that the directive had come from none other than the Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos himself.

Also, Nest employees had prior information about the Amazon move, having been tipped off by its soon-to-be owners Google.

If the Business Insider source is to be believed, the Amazon decision did not go down well with Google, forcing the company to take the extreme decision of not selling Nest products at all on the Amazon platform, henceforth.

While Amazon can continue selling its current inventory, it will not be receiving replenishments from Nest, if the Business Insider report is anything to go by.

This development between the two titans is the latest in a series of an-eye-for-an-eye moves by both, going back some months in time, now.

Early in December last year, Google-owned YouTube announced that it was discontinuing the video-sharing service on Fire TV as well as Echo Show – Amazon’s only smart speaker with a screen.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement at the time.

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon,” he added.

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It wasn’t the first time that Google had withdrawn YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show. In a similar move in September last year, the tech giant had withdrawn the service citing breach of “Terms of Service” on the part of Amazon.

It was the retail behemoth, though, which had first accused Google of discontinuing YouTube without prior intimation, saying that the unannounced move was a source of disappointment for both Google and Amazon customers.

Here’s what Amazon had said in its September 26th statement:

“Google made a change today around 3 pm. YouTube used to be available to our shared customers on Echo Show. As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

However, in a statement given to THE VERGE at the time, Google had countered Amazon’s claim, saying that the way the retail company had implemented YouTube on its Echo Show was in violation of the “Terms of Service”

“We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”

About a fortnight prior to the December withdrawal of the service, YouTube had returned to Echo Show – an indication that differences between the two companies had been ironed out and that Amazon was in compliance with Google’s conditions.

An Amazon representative had confirmed the reinstatement, saying that in addition to the Google service, the company was also providing other sources of video content to its Echo Show users.

“We’re excited to offer customers the capability to watch even more video content from sources such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Dailymotion on Echo Show. More video sources will be added over time.”

However, Google accused Amazon of overlaying voice controls on top of the service which, according to Google, was a Terms of Service breach on the part of Amazon.

From Google’s December announcement that it was not only taking away YouTube from the Echo Show again but was also discontinuing the service from Amazon Fire TV as well, it became glaringly obvious that there was more to the feud than met the eye.

In order to promote its own products such as Echo Show and Fire TV, Amazon has been known to discourage similar competitor products on its online site.

It stopped selling Google products like Chromecast and Google Home in addition to other company products including the Apple TV and LINE smart speakers. Also, it doesn’t provide Prime Video to Google Cast users.

While Amazon was happy to sell Nest devices earlier, promoting them with catchphrases like “working with Alexa” and calling the Nest Thermostat “Amazon’s Choice,” its sudden decision to remove them from its online retail outlet appeared to have been an attempt to pressurize Google into easing up on its YouTube “Terms of Service.”

The growing feud does not seem to be benefiting either of the two companies, in that both their customers are being deprived.

While Amazon Echo Show users are missing out on one of the most popular video-sharing sites in the world, Google customers will not be able to buy its products like the Google Home, Chromecast and Nest devices on the world’s biggest retail website.

The sooner the two companies resolve their disagreements the better for them as well as their customers.

As of now, it’s the customers on both sides who are actually losing out. As they say, when two elephants engage in a fight, it’s the ground they fight on that suffers the most.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Acquires Smart Doorbell Maker Ring for a Reported $1 Billion

Continuing its foray into connected home security systems, Amazon has acquired smart doorbell manufacturer Ring, the retail giant confirmed on Tuesday (Feb. 27).

“Ring’s home security products and services have delighted customers since day one. We’re excited to work with this talented team,” said an Amazon spokesperson, confirming the deal – reports CNBC.

While, officially, the financial arrangement for the acquisition has not yet found its way into public domain, Reuters reports that the deal was for more than $1 billion.

“JUST IN: Amazon has agreed to acquire http://Ring.com  for more than $1 billion – source $AMZN,” read the Tweet from Reuters Tech News.

“Ring is committed to our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods by providing effective yet affordable home security tools to our neighbors that make a positive impact on our homes, our communities, and the world,” said a Ring spokesperson in a statement.

“We’ll be able to achieve even more by partnering with an inventive, customer-centric company like Amazon,”. “We look forward to being a part of the Amazon team as we work toward our vision for safer neighborhoods,” he added.

Just a couple of months ago, Amazon acquired the 2016 start-up Blink – manufacturers of wireless video security cameras and monitoring systems, as well as a new video doorbell it announced last December – due for release sometime this year.

“We’re excited to announce that Blink has been acquired by Amazon! Since launching in early 2016, we’ve been thrilled by your response to our ultra-affordable, truly wire-free video home security cameras and monitoring systems,” Blink announced the takeover on its website, at the time.

“If you own one of our systems, nothing changes for now. We’ll continue to operate under the Amazon umbrella selling and supporting the same great products you know and love. It’s Day 1 for us at Amazon, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can deliver to our customers together,” the announcement further read.

In an arrangement similar to the one with Blink, Twitch or Zappos – Amazon is expected to allow its newest company to continue operations independently under the Amazon umbrella.

This is not the first time, though, that Amazon is dealing with the Santa Monica, California- based video doorbell maker, having previously invested an undisclosed amount in Ring via the Amazon Alexa fund, which exclusively finances start-ups to facilitate the integration of the Alexa technology with their products.

In a September 2017 interview with CNBC, Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff used the “nuclear power” analogy to describe Amazon, saying that the retail behemoth had the potential to annihilate a business as effectively as it could help establish it.

“To say Amazon will not compete with you is lunacy because they compete with everybody,” Siminoff said. “They’re like nuclear power. They are very, very powerful and you can get amazing, clean energy from them but there’s also the possibility of getting human radiation if you’re not careful.”

Luke Schoenfelder, CEO of Latch – a New York City-based start-up that specializes in smart locks – noted that the acquisition would give Amazon a firmer foothold in the home security arena, enabling it to compete with companies like Comcast, ADT, and Alarm.com.

“Amazon has amazing engineering teams and huge economies of scale on the cloud side. And now you pair that with these low-cost cameras and security hardware and you throw it at companies like ADT and Alarm.com who are not traditional technology companies — it makes for a pretty crazy market,” said the Latch CEO.

Amazon’s increasing foray into the home security ecosystem is likely to raise some hackles in the Google camp as well, what with the tech giant on the verge of shipping out its $229 Nest Hello smart doorbell by way of its Nest unit, which currently specializes in smarthome thermostats.

A Forrester Research analyst, James McQuivey, looks at Amazon’s latest acquisition as the company’s endeavour to enhance the intelligence capabilities of its home security products, like incorporating face recognition software to identify visitors at your front door, or any door for that matter, as long as you have one of the company’s security systems installed on that door.

“I think it’s about going to the next level and having Alexa say, ‘James, your fifth grader just walked in, and I locked the door behind them,’” he said. “It’s where these technologies have to go.”

The Amazon Key and the Amazon Cloud Cam, launched last year, are fine examples of how the company is incorporating more and more technology to boost its core business of online retailing by way of providing additional security to customers.

The virtual Key allows users to unlock their front doors and monitor their Amazon deliveries, even in their absence, as the delivery guy enters the home, delivers the package and leaves, after which the Key lets the user secure the door again.

Priced at $250, the Amazon Key Kit comes with an Amazon Cloud Cam – a 1080p full HD, night vision indoor security camera as well as a compatible smart lock and an app.

Founded in 2012 by Jamie Siminoff, Ring – which was then called DoorBot – manufactures a whole range of Wi-Fi-enabled home security products, including the Ring Video Doorbell that makes it possible for users to remotely monitor and operate their front door, back door, and even their garage door.

The company’s cheapest doorbell is priced at $179, with a $30 a year or $3 a month charge, should the user decide to use the company’s video recording services.

Here’s a list of Ring’s products and their price tags.

Smart Doorbells

  • Ring Video Doorbell ($179)
  • Ring Video Doorbell 2 ($199)

Security Cameras

  • Ring Stick Up Cam ($179)
  • Ring Floodlight Cam ($249)

Accessories

  • Ring Chime ($29)
  • Ring Chime Pro ($49)
  • Ring Solar Panel ($49)
  • Ring Solar Security Sign ($49)
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From The Editors Health

Amazon, JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway Combine Forces to Build Healthcare Company for their Respective Employees

In a move aimed at providing healthcare to their respective workers and their families, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet are pooling their company resources to build a fully independent healthcare company, which they say will be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

The three CEOs announced Tuesday (Jan. 30) morning that the, yet to be named, company would direct its efforts towards “technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

Acknowledging the level of difficulty and complexity of the healthcare system, Bezos said that the expected positive impact on the economy and benefits for the workers and their kin outweighed the challenges, adding that skilled experts, a beginner’s mindset and long-term planning were necessary ingredients for the success of the joint endeavor.

“The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” said the Amazon CEO. “Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”

Warren Buffet said that burgeoning healthcare costs were eating into the country’s economy, and while the three giants have not come together with ready solutions, they do believe that pooling the massive resources at their disposal, and involving the nation’s top talent, would not only bring some order in healthcare costs but also benefit patients, given time.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said the Berkshire Hathaway CEO. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.”

JPMorgan CEO Dimon dropped a hint in his statement that the joint efforts of three of the most formidable companies in the nation had the potential to grow beyond just employees and their families and reach out to all Americans.

“Our people want transparency, knowledge and control when it comes to managing their healthcare,” Dimon said. “The three of our companies have extraordinary resources, and our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans,” he added.

The three business giants have not revealed any details about the size, scale of operations, or even location of the new company’s headquarters, saying in a joint statement that the undertaking was “in its early planning stages.”

“The effort announced today is in its early planning stages, with the initial formation of the company jointly spearheaded by Todd Combs, an investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway; Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold, a Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase; and Beth Galetti, a Senior Vice President at Amazon. The longer-term management team, headquarters location and key operational details will be communicated in due course,” the companies said in the press release.

Three of the most powerful American business entities uniting to form a healthcare company for the long-term benefit of all may be a first, but there have been others who have individually tested the healthcare waters only to find out that overcoming the regulatory barriers was, indeed, no walk in the park, as Bezos has correctly pointed out.

Who would know this better than Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, who was banned from running her own labs out of health and safety concerns!

Google’s parent company Alphabet has also burnt its hands along with Calico and Verily Life Sciences, having failed in its healthcare venture.

“When [tech companies] start to understand the complexity, even just the idea of an electronic health record, they pull out,” Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson said.

Ali Diab, founder of Collective Health – a company that specializes in providing healthcare coverage to self-insured employers through its cloud-based platform – suggests that the new venture would be better off working with Collective Health.

“I would suggest they focus exactly on what we are already doing, which is build infrastructure that knits everything together,” said Diab. “It’s not stuff that people see. It’s all the infrastructure to ingest data from various sources, process claims, to make that data analyzable, to build machine learning and AI-based systems on top of it that help identify people that need care way before they might even know.”

Pembroke Consulting president Adam Fein says it is high time companies took such initiatives, referring to the announcement by the three companies.

“For better or worse, there are warped incentives baked into every aspect of the U.S. health-care system, from medical innovation to care delivery to insurance and benefit management,” Fein said on CNBC.

“Rather than merely bashing the current system, I hope this new organization can help patients and their physicians make more informed and more cost-effective decisions. Technology will be necessary but not sufficient to make positive changes,” he added.
The announced has attracted some skepticism as well.

“If this winds up being the low-cost provider to make insurance more affordable at employer level, it could wind up being a real disruptive competitor to an industry that has not seen any new players in years/decades,” Jared Holz, an analyst at Jeffries, told CNBC. “[I’m] not going to call this black swan event yet because there are few details and would be making too many assumptions but it has potential to be.”

The announcement, however, saw a sharp dip in healthcare companies’ share prices, including that of Express Scripts and Aetna (down 3%) as well as CVS and UnitedHealth (down 4%).

“Today’s announcement by Amazon, J.P. Morgan & Chase company, and Berkshire Hathaway is clear recognition that the healthcare system needs to continue to create and deliver meaningful value to payors and patients,” Express Scripts said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing more about this new initiative and how we can work together to improve health care for everyone.”

“We find that technology initiatives which facilitated information sharing between disconnected hospitals resulted in significant reductions in healthcare spending,” said Idris Adjerid, Management IT professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, in a statement.

“That said, it is unclear what the scope of this effort will be. If this partnership is to meaningfully improve healthcare delivery, it needs to include more than the employees of these companies,” Adjerid added.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Go: No Cashiers, No Checkout Queues! Amazon’s New High-Tech Grocery Store is Here!

Amazing Amazon has done it again!

While Amazon employees have been enjoying the Amazon Go experience ever since the company opened the high-tech grocery store to its staff in December 2016, effective Monday (Jan. 22), the public will also get to savor the cashier-free, checkout-free, “just walk out shopping” experience at this revolutionary store in downtown Seattle.

Download the new Amazon Go app, enter the store, pick up whatever you fancy, stuff it in your shopping bag and walk out the store – that’s it! Your purchases will be automatically billed to your Amazon account while you get an electronic receipt on your app.

Here are the main features of the Amazon Go style of shopping.

Entry

A subway station type of concept awaits you at the entrance to the store where you must scan your Amazon Go app at one of the turnstiles to be allowed in. The key to everything, therefore, is the dedicated app, without which you can’t gain entry.

What’s even more unique is that if you enter in a group and want the purchases to be billed to one Amazon account, all you need to do is scan in each individual with the same smartphone, and the system will track their purchases as well as yours. You will receive a consolidated bill in your app once you guys are done and out of the shop.

Yes, it sounds like fun, but keep an eye out on who’s grabbing what!
Both, Android and iOS versions of the app are now available on Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store, and Google Play. So, if you are in Seattle, what are you waiting for!

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Technology

The technology is based on deep learning algorithms, sensor fusion, and computer vision.

Hundreds of cameras throughout the 1,800-square-foot store, packed with shelves full of all sorts of foodstuff, track everything you pick up and add it to your virtual cart as you go along.

So, what happens if you change your mind and want to put something back? Well, just put it back and don’t worry about being billed for it. The technology will simply remove it from your virtual cart.

No shopping carts or baskets

By doing away with cashiers and check-out formalities, the Amazon Go technology has also made the shopping cart and basket totally redundant. Since you are going to walk in, shop and leave, all you need is a shopping bag to walk out with your purchases in it.

Products

  • A selection of grocery essentials, from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates as well as produce and meat
  • Ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made by Amazon Go chefs and favorite local kitchens and bakeries
  • A small selection of beer and wine
  • Soda, potato chips, ketchup etc. as well as foods found at the Amazon-acquired supermarket chain Whole Foods

Control on purchase of alcoholic beverages

With no checkout and cashiers, the only way to prevent an underage from walking out with alcoholic beverages is to have someone in the beer and wine section to check IDs, which is exactly what Amazon has done.

Customer Experience

For a hassle-free customer experience, there will be employees patrolling the store to help customers find stuff and address any queries they may have.

“We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience,” said Amazon Go vice president Ms. Gianna Puerini.

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No shoplifting?

Since it’s mandatory to be equipped with the dedicated app to enter the store, every customer inside Amazon Go is being tracked and recorded. Even if you jump the turnstile, you are being recorded by hundreds of cameras from hundreds of different angles.

Who would know better than New York Times’ Nick Wingfield who tried to sneak out with a four-pack soda – he had the company’s permission, of course – only to be billed as he left the store.

“Actual shoplifting is not easy at Amazon Go. With permission from Amazon, I tried to trick the store’s camera system by wrapping a shopping bag around a $4.35 four-pack of vanilla soda while it was still on a shelf, tucking it under my arm and walking out of the store. Amazon charged me for it,” Wingfield wrote.

Pros

No cashiers and no checkout formalities translate to no frustrating long lines to contend with, no exchange of cash, no fumbling with credit cards and no struggle at the self-checkout kiosks. All these, in turn, translate to time saved and enhanced shopping experience.

Cons

Well, as of now, the only area where the Amazon Go way of shopping can be viewed as disadvantageous is splurging through impulse purchasing. You could end up picking up more than what you came in for and not pay much attention to what it’s going to cost you.

Inc.’s Bill Murphy has rightly noted that “a lot of the pre-launch reviews say that shopping at Amazon Go feels less like going to a store and more like just raiding your own pantry. That means people potentially pay less attention to the cost of what they’re buying–and more impulse purchases.”

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Announces Final 20 Locations it is Considering for the Company’s Second Headquarters

On the hunt for a location to build its second headquarters, retail juggernaut Amazon announced the names of 20 potential cities it has shortlisted from 238 applicants, on Thursday (Jan. 18).

There were seven core conditions that Amazon required aspiring cities to meet in order to qualify as applicants.

First: The applicant city had to be a metropolitan area with over a million residents.

Second: A steady and conducive business environment was another prerequisite.

Third: It was imperative that the city was within 30 miles of a population center.

Fourth: The location had to be within a 45-minute driving distance from an international airport.

Fifth: One- to three-mile proximity to major highways and arterial roads was another requirement to meet the qualification criteria.

Sixth: The sixth major condition was access to mass transit routes

Seventh: There had to be a provision for up to 8 million square feet of office space for future expansion.

Amazon also had some optional preferences, meeting which would improve the chances of the contending cities. These included direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle – where the company has its HQ1 – as well as proximity to major universities.

Here’s the list of the 20 finalists.

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York City, New York
  • Northern Virginia, Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Washington, D.C.

The lucky winner that will become the home of Amazon’s proposed HQ2 will be announced by the end of the year.

Lucky because the company has pledged 50,000 jobs at the new headquarters with an initial investment of $5 billion in the city it finally picks, as well as up to 8 million square feet of development.

With the kind of job and money incentives on offer, it will have to be a hard-fought competition between the finalists, something that Amazon could be looking to take advantage of, in terms of bargaining for extra perks like subsidies, tax holidays and the likes.

For all you know, Amazon may have already finalized a much shorter list but is playing out this extended game for favorable media coverage as well as the possibility of squeezing out better offers from a longer list of contenders.

 Construction is underway on Amazon's new biodomes.
Construction is underway on Amazon’s new biodomes.

Here are some interesting promotional campaigns that competing cities have already undertaken.

Stonecrest, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, pledged 345 acres of land to Amazon to establish its very own city around its new headquarters

Sun Corridor, a Tucson-based economic development company in Arizona, looking to push the city’s bid tried to gift Amazon a cactus measuring 21 feet but it was rejected as it went against the retailer’s corporate gifts policy. The giant cactus ended up at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

A Pittsburgh-based sandwich shop chain offered free sandwiches to Amazon workers if the company selected the city as the location for its HQ2.

In another blatant promotional gimmick, Kansas City mayor Sly James bought 1,000 Amazon products and donated them to charity. Not only that, he wrote 5-star reviews for all of them with positive Kansas City attributes mentioned with each review.

Here’s another innovative one; Birmingham, Alabama, sent out pre-generated tweets through Amazon dash buttons it built around public places along with huge Amazon boxes.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com on July 5, 1994, initially setting up his business in his garage, not unlike Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, but that’s a different story.

What actually inspired and pushed him into founding Amazon, leaving a lucrative job at a New York City hedge fund, was the “rapid growth in internet use.”

Bezos referred to it as the “regret minimization framework,” which basically means he wanted to capitalize on the internet boom at the right time and not regret the delay in joining in sooner.

Another factor that propelled him toward the Amazon idea was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling at the time that mail order companies were exempt from collecting taxes in states where they did not have a physical presence, such as offices, warehouses or any other physical property directly or indirectly related to the business.

Headquartered in Seattle, the company was initially named “Cadabra” by Bezos, changing it to “Amazon” a year later. The humor behind the name change is that a lawyer happened to have misheard the name as “cadaver” which, as we all know, means corpse or a dead body.

The story goes that Amazon was named after the mighty Amazon River, “exotic and different,” which matched Bezos’ vision of making his company different, exotic and the biggest in the world.

From its rather humble beginnings as an online bookstore, Amazon, as we all know, has grown into an “electronic commerce and cloud computing company,” the largest internet retailer in terms of total sales and market capitalization and continuing to expand.

Of course, the growth of Amazon into what it is today went through different stages of diversification – from selling books online to DVDs, CDs, video downloading and streaming, Bluerays, MP3 downloading and streaming, audio books downloading and streaming, electronics, software, video games, furniture, apparel, food, toys, jewellery – you name it and they have it delivered to your doorstep! Amazing Amazon!

It does not end here; Amazon is also into manufacturing consumer electronics such as Amazon Kindle e-books, Fire tablets, Fire TV, it’s hit Alexa-enabled speakers, to name a few, in addition to being one of the world’s largest providers of cloud computing infrastructure service.

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From The Editors Technology

Kohler’s New Alexa-Integrated Smart Mirror and Supported Fixtures All Set to Take Our Bathrooms Online

Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the smartest of them all?

It’s Kohler’s new line of Verdera Mirror! Well, at least, until something smarter comes up!

Manufacturing giant Kohler is allowing Alexa into our bathrooms with its new Verdera Voice Mirror. It will serve as the main unit in your most personal space, controlling the company’s new line of smart bathroom fixtures either through Alexa-enabled voice commands or using the new Kohler Konnect app.

The mirror will house a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker at the bottom, with its front-facing dual microphone all ready to obey your commands. The technology is well-protected in a sealed casing from potential damage by splashing water and condensation.

The mirror, which is expected to hit the market as early as March, has two vertical LED lights on either side, with soft nightlight features and motion sensors beneath that raise the light level as somebody approaches it.

Alexa Mirror
Alexa Mirror

Being the only Alexa-integrated product among the Kohler line of connected bathroom fixtures, the new Verdera will clearly serve as the main unit. While the rest of the connected line-up are Alexa-enabled, they are not equipped with Amazon’s popular voice assistant. They do, however, respond to the Kohler Konnect app.

It won’t be long before you start ordering your mirror to fill your bath, turn on the shower, flush your toilet or read you the news, and more.

In addition to bathroom products, Kohler is also giving our kitchens a dose of the smarts; it’s just a matter of time before you are able to connect to a whole lot of Kohler Konnect kitchen gadgets, as well.

In addition to Alexa, the new Kohler products are designed to work with other voice services such as the Google and Apple voice assistants.

Here are some of the other Kohler Konnect fixtures you can connect to through your Verdera mirror or through the app.

DTV+ Shower System

Kohler’s high-tech showers are going to become much smarter with the Konnect-enabled and Alexa-compatible DTV (Digital Thermostatic Valve) shower system.

While personalized showers have long been around – allowing you control of water temperature and rate of flow, to name a couple of features – the novelty that comes with the new DTV is the combination of Alexa Skills and the Kohler Konnect app. Controlling each feature of the shower system, such as water temperature, water pressure, steam and the likes, is now just a shout away, literally.

The shower can also memorize personalized settings of different individuals sharing the system. For example, a command saying, “Alexa, turn on Sam’s shower,” will activate the shower to Sam’s pre-set shower preferences.

An accessory module will allow existing Kohler owners to upgrade their showers to the connected DTV version.

PerfectFill Bathtub

Use Alexa or the Kohler Konnect app to control the water temperature and fill level of your new PerfectFill bathtub. On command, the tub’s drain will plug and water will start filling as soon as the requested temperature is reached. The water will stop filling after reaching the asked for fill level.

Additionally, you can use the app or voice commands for hydrotherapy as well as Vibracoustic Soundwave Settings.

Numi Smart Toilet

Kohler’s top of the line signature toilet Numi is also getting the Alexa and Konnect treatment.

Use the app to preset user preferences and ask Alexa for services like flushing, bidet cleaning, air drying, odor control, music, feet warming, night light and automatic seat temperature management.

Although it’s unlikely that both Alexa and the app will stop working simultaneously, the company is not taking any chances and is providing for the wall-mounted physical option.

PureWarmth Toilet Seat

Kohler’s new Konnect enabled PureWarmth toilet seat will sell as a standalone product, allowing users the pocket-friendly option of attaching the smart seat to their existing toilets rather than having to change the whole unit.

Sensate Kitchen Faucet

Not be left behind, Kohler’s Sensate kitchen faucet is also going the Konnect way with the integration of the software in the newest version. Again, use the app or voice command to control water temperature and volume level and monitor home water usage. You can also communicate with the faucet using hand motions.

Supporting the Kohler Konnect app will be the new Kohler Cloud back-end system hosted by MS Azure. It will act as an intermediary, facilitating connectivity between Kohler’s new line of bathroom products as well as voice services.

According to CNET, one of Kohler’s project leaders Jonathan Bradley said that the company had to work closely with its voice partners to fine-tune certain tricky issues for a better user experience.

“These AI platforms don’t necessarily have a library built out for bathroom verbiage,” says Bradley, as quoted by CNET. “Controlling our Numi and asking Alexa or Google Hometo flush the toilet, traditionally the AI hears the word ‘flash,’ so it’s thinking about a camera. We did a lot of work with them around how to get the word ‘flush’ to be properly heard.”

“We want to be a brand you trust,” CEO David Kohler told CNET.

“That’s a baseline requirement for us to play in this space. But, by the same token, our life is connected now. We have devices on our wrist, we’re living in a connected world. We’re learning how to use this [technology] and how it can really hopefully improve our lives.”

“Because of the intimacy of the bathroom space, you want to be careful and you want to preserve privacy, but at the same time, it can be an area where you can enjoy a lot more convenience. It is a really important room for people. You like to rest, relax, rejuvenate, prepare for the day, rest in the evening as you’re preparing for bed.

You want technology for the right reason there, to make your experience better,” the CEO further said, claims CNET.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Takes Over “Blink” Wi-Fi Security Camera and Video Doorbell Startup

Continuing its foray into connected home video cameras and home entry systems, Amazon today acquired Blink, a 2016 startup that specializes in wireless video security cameras and monitoring systems as well as a new video doorbell announced on Dec. 19th and due for release next year.

The financial terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed, for now, and at this stage, nothing changes at BLINK; the company will continue to operate as it had been before the buy-off.

“We’re excited to announce that Blink has been acquired by Amazon! Since launching in early 2016, we’ve been thrilled by your response to our ultra-affordable, truly wire-free video home security cameras and monitoring systems,” BLINK announced the takeover on its website.

“If you own one of our systems, nothing changes for now. We’ll continue to operate under the Amazon umbrella selling and supporting the same great products you know and love. It’s Day 1 for us at Amazon, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can deliver to our customers together,” the announcement further read.

In an email to The Verge, Amazon confirmed the takeover.

“As one of [Blink’s] distributors, we already know customers love their home security cameras and monitoring systems. We’re excited to welcome their team and invent together on behalf of customers.”

Blink followed up the January 2016 launch of its original camera, with an infrared night vision outdoor camera, the Blink XT, in December that year. Earlier this week, the startup introduced its first battery-powered video doorbell with ‘instant-on motion detection’ and ‘infrared night vision’ among other useful features.

Amazon’s acquisition of Blink does not really come as a surprise after the retail giant launched the Amazon Key and the Amazon Cloud Cam early last month.

Deliverymen can enter the home of a person who has installed the Amazon Key in his/her absence to deliver a product he/she has ordered online from the retailer.

The homeowner can watch the delivery in real time, unlocking the door for the delivery person to enter and locking it after he delivers whatever he has to and exits the home.

Priced at $250, the Amazon Key Kit comes with an Amazon Cloud Cam – a 1080p full HD, night vision indoor security camera as well as a compatible smart lock and an app.

Amazon Key ($250)

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Amazon Key In-Home Kit includes: Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera and compatible smart lock

Features

  • Not at home? Not a problem. As a Prime member, you can get packages securely delivered into your home without being there. Plus, grant access to the people you trust, like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner—no more leaving a key under the mat.
  • Secure access. The In-Home Kit features the Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera and an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock.
  • Real-time notifications. We’ll send notifications the morning of delivery, just before, and right after. Watch your delivery happening live or view a video clip of it later.
  • Stop making spare keys. Give family and friends temporary, recurring, or permanent access. Or provide one-time access for your electrician or dog walker. You’re in control—just schedule the date and time window.
  • Check in on your front door 24/7. The Amazon Key In-Home Kit includes an Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera with 1080p Full HD, night vision, and more—plus an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock for secure access control.
  • Free installation. Get the Amazon Key In-Home Kit installed for free by a professional. Just schedule your installation appointment during checkout.
  • Exclusively for Prime members in select cities and surrounding areas. Enter your zip code to see if Amazon Key is available in your area. Check back as we expand to more cities. (www.amazon.com)

And here’s the list of Blink products

Blink Indoor Camera

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The Blink Indoor Camera comes in wire-free one-camera as well as two-camera systems. Both include a sync module starter set.

Priced at $99 and $169.99, respectively, they are cheaper than other camera security systems with no subscription fees or data storage charges.

The product features HD video, temperature sensor, motion detection, instant alerts, live view and a low-light illumination.

Blink XT

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Like the Blink Indoor, the Blink XT also has no subscription fees or data storage charges. It comes in one-outdoor-camera and three-outdoor-camera systems, which include features such as HD video, temperature sensor, motion detection, instant alerts, live view, weatherproofing for outdoor use, and infrared night vision.

The one-camera system is priced at $129.99 while the three-camera pack costs 319.99, much lower than other similar systems.

Blink Video Doorbell

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Blink’s latest product, the low-priced battery-powered video doorbell was announced earlier this week and will hit the stores in 2018.

With the Blink Video Doorbell, you will be able to greet your guests from wherever you may be in the world.

Whether you are in your house, in the vicinity, in a different city or another country, with the Blink Video Doorbell you will be able to see and speak to anyone who approaches your door via live video and two-way audio that the product affords.

Not only that, the BVD will even notify you of intruders with “instant-on motion-activated alerts right to your smartphone.”

Here are the main features of the Blink Video Doorbell

  • Live View
  • Instant-On Motion Detection
  • Free Cloud Storage
  • Wire Free
  • Weather Proof
  • Video Alerts
  • 2-Way Audio
  • Infrared Night Vision
  • 2 Year Battery Life
  • Easy Setup
  • Mobile App
  • HD Video

*Price starts at $99 for existing Blink customers.

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Reinvents the Alarm Clock with its Latest Alexa Device: The Echo Spot

Spot, the newest addition to Amazon’s line of Echo speakers, is not only a near-perfect alarm clock and everything else you would associate with an Alexa-enabled Echo device but is also pleasing to the visual faculty, an area its predecessors were found wanting in.

At the expense of being somewhat unkind to Amazon, one has to say that the Echo Spot looks more like a product you would expect out of an Apple facility, rather than what we’re used to seeing from Amazon, aesthetically speaking, of course.

Gone is the unsightly retro look of the previous line of Echo smart speakers!

It is the ideal cross between the Echo Show and the Echo Dot, retaining all the goodness of both in a stylishly compact half-hemispherical design, the size of a softball that blends in perfectly in your home.

With a price tag of $130, the Spot is not only expected to give similar Apple and Google products a run for their money, it can potentially topple its own.

Designed to resemble an alarm clock, it’s the perfect bedside companion – not that it looks out of place elsewhere in the home environment.

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With the announcement of the new alarm feature for all Alexa-powered devices last week, the Echo Spot’s release has been perfectly timed.

The new feature allows you to set your alarm to wake you up with music from the streaming service of your choice, be it Amazon’s own Prime Music Unlimited or third party services supported by Alexa-powered devices such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and SiriusXM.

Read more about that feature here:

“Alexa Can Now Wake You Up Shaking a Leg to Your Favorite Tune” (https://timelybuzz.com/alexa-can-now-wake-shaking-leg-favorite-tune/)

Here are some of the main features of the Amazon Echo Spot.

Designed to blend in perfectly anywhere in your home, the Echo Spot’s second-generation far-field voice recognition allows you to watch video flash briefings, see music lyrics, weather forecasts, shopping and to-do lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more.

All you need to do is ask Alexa – a cloud-based voice service. It’s the ultimate hands-free experience.

Just ask the Alexa-powered Echo Spot to play music by song, artists, or genre, and see lyrics with Amazon Music and even stream music and books from Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Audible, using Spot’s built-in speaker or connecting to other speakers via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable. With multi-room music, you can play music on your Echo devices in different rooms.

Make it read the news, answer questions, and control your smart home devices by simply asking Alexa to lock your doors, turn on your lights, show baby monitors and front door cameras, as well as control your TV, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, and more – to give a few examples of its handiness.

You can use voice commands to request an Uber ride, order your favorite pizza, make hands-free calls, or connect to family and friends through video calls or instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home.

With tens of thousands of Alexa skills and growing, the sky is the limit when it comes to the Spot’s usefulness!