The Alexa Intercom Broadcast is a Really Easy and Useful Feature
Amazon announced last week that intercom functionality was coming to U.S. and Canadian Alexa users. While Alexa already supported a one-to-one intercom connection where you could “call” other devices, this feature enables you to broadcast to all Alexa-enabled devices on a single network. It doesn’t require someone else to accept the call to connect or to use the drop-in feature. You simply say “Alexa, tell everyone….” or “Alexa, announce…” or “Alexa, broadcast ….” and your message is delivered.
It is a simple feature and it is automatically enabled. You don’t need to change anything in settings, it just works. One thing to note, if do not disturb is set on a device, then the message will not be delivered. This is a nice feature if you want to turn off the intercom for a certain room to limit disturbance. Also, this is a one-way broadcast and best for short messages. If you want to do anything longer or engage in two-way dialogue, then calling or dropping in on the other device will be preferred.
A nice design feature is that Alexa parses your speech to only deliver the message and not the context from the command. For example, if you say, “Alexa, tell everyone that it’s time for dinner,” it only broadcasts, “it’s time for dinner.” Alexa automatically knows to eliminate “that” as it is grammar that is part of the command and not the message. Similarly, “Alexa, tell everyone to come to the living room” and “Alexa, tell everyone come to the living room,” both deliver a message that says, “come to the living room.” Alexa recognizes which language is part of the command and which is the message. That is a nice touch for a voice assistant to strive to deliver conversational language even when passing along a message.
Useful Features for Multi-Device Homes and Offices
Android Authority notes that, “According to Amazon, ‘millions of customers’ have multiple Echo speakers in their homes.” The Voicebot Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report found that also to be true. Of the 47.3 million U.S. adults with access to smart speakers, 16.2 million had more than one in their household.
The intercom feature provides immediate benefit to those multi-device households. Equally important for Amazon, it offers a new reason for the two-thirds of smart speaker owners with a single device to purchase a second. The obvious use cases are calling everyone to dinner or making sure the kids know it’s time to leave for school. However, it could also help a sick child quickly get their parents’ attention and generally lead to less yelling to be heard in the home. And, it opens up other opportunities for office use cases such as locating an employee quickly or announcing the start of meetings.
A similar feature that rolled out on Google Home in November 2017. At the time, Voicebot differentiated the Google Assistant broadcast feature as distinct from the one-to-one intercom feature offered by Alexa. Broadcast is often referred to as a public address (PA) feature and is one-to-many. Google does not yet have a one-to-one intercom feature and the new broadcast capability fills an important communications gap for Alexa devices.