Alexa for Residential – FI

Amazon Launches Alexa for Residential to Provide Property Owners with an Easier Way to Offer Smart Home Features to Renters

  • Alexa for Residential enables property managers to centrally manage Alexa-enabled smart home devices making it easier to offer these features to renters as added amenities
  • Renters will be able to use the devices anonymously if they choose and still be able to control smart home features through an Alexa-enable device such as a smart speaker and other features such as weather and asking questions.
  • Renters will also be able to connect their Amazon accounts to the smart speakers and displays to have a personalized Alexa experience similar to what they would have if they owned the device.
  • Amazon is rolling out Alexa for Residential through leading technology integrators that serve residential property managers.

Amazon announced this morning a new offering for property owners that will allow them to more easily offer Alexa-enabled smart home features to renters. Alexa for Residential has many of the same characteristics of Alexa for Hospitality which Amazon rolled out for hotel chains in 2018. Both solutions enable centralized management of Alexa-enabled devices such as Amazon Echo smart speakers and Show smart displays. Amazon characterizes the new offering in today’s announcement saying:

“Today, we are launching Alexa for Residential—an all-new service that makes it easy for property managers to set up and manage Alexa-powered smart home experiences throughout their buildings. With Alexa for Residential, residents walk in to a ready-to-use, Alexa-powered smart apartment, with no account or device setup needed. From the moment they move in, residents can control their apartment’s smart home features, set timers and alarms, get the weather, news and more—all using just their voice. If a resident has an Amazon account, they can easily link it to access the full range of Alexa features, including the ability to call friends and family, listen to their music playlists and more.”

Liron Torres, senior manager for Alexa Smart Home at Amazon, told Voicebot in an interview that the solution is for “senior living facilities, dorms, and apartment buildings.” Alexa devices are already deployed in some senior living facilities and dorms and typically are managed using Alexa for Hospitality, so this could offer new features to property managers with long-term residents who have different needs than a typical hotel stay.

Alexa for Residential Launch Starts with the Channel

A key difference between the new program and the earlier Alexa for Hospitality offering is the initial customer targets. Hospitality was launched with the announcement of hotel giant Marriott as an anchor customer. The Alexa for Residential launch doesn’t highlight one of the leading residential property owners such as Camden, but instead lists three leading software and technology integrators that serve property owners. “IOTAS, STRATIS IoT and Sentient Property Services are the first smart home integrators to use Alexa for Residential and will be opening multiple smart apartment residences across the U.S. this fall,” according to an announcement released today.

The introduction of Alexa of Residential through the technology integrator channel is likely a recognition of the differences between residential and lodging industries and how they manage their properties. The big hotel chains have far more in-house technology teams and resources compared to residential property owners and managers which often outsource many of their technology needs. This also means that Amazon doesn’t need to sell directly to the property managers where they might be in conflict with the services the technology integrators are offering. Instead, Amazon can have the channel sell the offering for them.

Amazon’s Torres pointed out in an interview another difference between the Hospitality and Residential offerings. “Alexa for Hospitality was designed for guests with an average stay of 2.5 days. Most of the experience was anonymous. It displayed what Alexa can do. Alexa for Residential property managers makes it your own. It has a greater focus on smart home.”

Opening Up Smart Home to More Renters

Smart home control is a popular feature among Amazon Alexa device users. However, Torres told Voicebot, “Consumers would like to take advantage of smart home technology with Alexa but they often feel like they can only do so if they own the home.” She highlighted a National Apartment Association study that found 84% of renters would like smart home features and 61% are willing to pay a monthly fee for the services.

As Amazon is looking to expand where Alexa can be deployed through Echo and Show devices, apartment renters could be rightly viewed as a growth segment. Renters can certainly use smart speakers today, but there is potential value in integrating it into the physical space owned by their landlords. For example, control for smart lighting, fixed appliances, and entryway access are more viable features for renters to take advantage of if provided by the property owner.

From the building owner’s perspective, Alexa for Residential is also designed to reduce the barriers to adoption. “This makes it a one-time investment for property owners,” said Torres. There are centralized management and privacy tools baked into the service that should eliminate the need to refresh or physically reset devices when rental units turn over.

3 Modes of Operation

Amazon developed three modes of operation for Alexa for Residential that follow the typically rental unit lifecycle. There is Vacant mode which enables people visiting the apartment to ask questions of a smart speaker about the unit and facility amenities and specifications. For example, Voicebot viewed a video demonstration of a potential renter asking an Amazon Echo about the unit’s square footage. Other common Alexa features don’t appear to be available in this mode but instead the devices default to skills that the property manager can build to show off the benefits of the rental unit.

When the apartment is rented, there is an Occupied mode. This enables access to a variety of Alexa services through smart speakers that are not user-specific. It is similar to how you could utilize an Amazon Echo if you were visiting a friend’s home. It doesn’t have your playlists or Spotify integration but you can still ask questions, get weather information, and control smart home devices.

Renters can also connect these devices to their Amazon accounts. That puts the devices into Linked mode. In this mode, the smart speakers and displays operate identically to those that a user would buy and set up on their own. Amazon says that most property managers now have apps that residents use to access amenities and get information. Those apps will provide a way to login to the renter’s Amazon account which will then personalize the Alexa settings. When a user ends their lease and moves out, they can simply disconnect their account and the device will revert to either occupied or vacant status. In addition, if the residential property manager sets the unit as vacant in their smart home management software, then the devices automatically revert to vacant mode and disconnect the former tenant’s account from the device.

Note on Privacy

The obvious question for devices controlled by others in a renters home is how Amazon is handling privacy safeguards. Torres stressed that the user data is not shared with the technology integrators, property managers, or property owners. She told Voicebot that in Vacant and Occupied modes, all utterance data is deleted from Amazon servers and account information daily. For Linked accounts, privacy settings are controlled by the user and data is not shared with the software or property managers/owners.

No Details on Economics

Torres would not comment on the economics of Alexa for Residential. Alexa for Hospitality and Alexa for Business have similar models where customers pay Amazon based on the number of devices in most instances.  She also deferred on questions about whether Amazon would provide discounts for orders of Amazon and Ring smart home devices to Alexa for Residential users. However, both of these seem likely strategies that Amazon will employ to maximize the adoption of Alexa for Residential. Amazon says that we should start seeing this capability live in apartment buildings in just a couple of months.

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