Amazon Cuts New Alexa Connect Kit Module Price in Half
Amazon debuted a new, much cheaper Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) module during the Alexa Live presentation this week as part of its drive to encourage device manufacturers to embed the voice assistant in their Internet of Things products. The ACK Module with Espressif Chipset integrates Alexa into a device without the builder needing to design any firmware or set up an Alexa skill but for half the cost of the previous iteration.
The ACK is designed as a way to simplify adding Alexa to any device. Originally announced in 2018, with sales beginning late last year, the kit provides the firmware and software needed to make Alexa a part of its operations. The new version, officially called the ACK Module with Espressif Chipset, just needs to be hooked up to a device and provided a connection to Amazon’s cloud. The chipset augments a device’s microcontroller with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as Alexa. The whole thing is managed by Amazon and can provide users access to Alexa either directly or through the Alexa app.
The price model is also streamlined, with a one-time fee each for the chipset and cloud connection. Reducing the price by half will likely draw in more companies who may be debating, including which, if any, voice assistant to enable on their creations, especially the smaller, more specialized tech companies. The USI-made kit that came out in November currently costs about $200, but that includes a whole development kit, not just the module. Amazon hasn’t said what the new chipset would cost, although one source indicated the module would only cost $4.
“IoT costs can be unpredictable with usage spikes that are difficult to plan for,” Amazon explained in its announcement. “With ACK, device makers pay for the ACK module and a low, upfront fee that covers the ongoing use of the ACK cloud services. As a result, device makers don’t need to worry about unpredictable costs.”
For companies building smart home devices that don’t want to manage the voice assistant aspect, the kit is a good way to skip ahead in meeting Amazon’s requirements for Alexa’s inclusion. They’re essentially pre-certified for Alexa and can be marketed as such, to the benefit of both Amazon and the company building the device. Voice assistant use is rising, and smart home tech is becoming more popular partly because of people spending more time at home during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Amazon wants Alexa to be at the center of people’s decisions for creating a connected home.
That’s probably why Amazon made sure to widely release the Multi-Capability Skills feature recently, enabling Alexa developers to combine their apps with smart home devices. Before, Alexa developers needed different apps depending on if they used Alexa’s smart home API. Now they can be merged into a single app, adding flexibility that may be crucial for the brands building new Alexa-powered devices. There were already more than 100,000 Alexa-supported smart home products from 9,500 different brands at the end of 2019. A cheaper ACK means many more may appear on shelves soon.