Amazon and Apple have competed head-to-head over the years. Several years back when iPads went up against Kindles, each device garnered appeal based on customer preferences. If a user preferred to read on a dedicated eReader, Kindle far surpassed the iPad based on its superior resolution and screen clarity. However, if you were looking for a mobile lightweight multi-tasking device, you were going to favor the iPad.
Jeff Bezos, however has never been known to be bested by a competitor on any front. So to address the tablet-preference, he quickly responded by producing one himself, namely the Kindle Fire. Presently the jury is out whether or not he won that round. – as there have been some inherent issues with the functionality of that device.
On another technological front, both firms are at again over their proprietary automated virtual assistants — Alexa versus Siri. They are the essential components of Amazons’ Echo and Apple’s iPhone 5-and-above smartphones.
Virtual assistants use artificial intelligence to provide its users with various services such as question answering, customer support, data collection and a number of other functions when interfaced with other apps and the Internet of Things (IoT).
So, today’s question is: Has Amazon been able to one-up Apple in THIS space – and in so doing will Alexa, out-Siri Siri?
The Alexa Echosystem
It all started with Amazon’s Echo device, which was first introduced as a stand-alone device. As such, critics were quick to critique as to why users would want to talk to a “Pringles look-alike can” speaker, especially when our iPhones had Siri built-in and our Androids had voice recognition?
ZDNet’sDavid Gewirtz even questioned whether or not “the market really needed another Bluetooth speaker, and an expensive one at that?”
However, as a stand-alone, Alexa has proven to be beneficial for home and office use. It can turn the lights on, conduct basic math, provide users with the weather forecast, read Kindle eBooks, access selections from the Audible library and even play music.
Differing from Siri, Alexa can use its ecosystem to interface with most of the apps developed outside of Apple. In so doing, the openness of the Alexa platform has allowed it to “blossom in ways that Amazon itself may not have even predicted,” noted Gewirtz.
Interfacing with Alexa by smart phone
Telzio’s cloud based, business grade VoIP service has had a long history of servicing the SMB market. They understand their needs and are always seeking new innovative tech advancements to add to their arsenal of tools they can offer their clientele. On March 2, they announced a working relationship with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa.
As a result of this successful partnership, Telzio customers can now talk to Alexa using Telzio’s VoIP service from anywhere in the world, without the physical need of the Echo device being present. All communications can now be conducted directly via their smartphones.
With Telzio and Alexa working together, users can conduct everyday tasks such as obtaining weather forecasts and checking on traffic reports in addition to some utilitarian chores such as reserving one’s next Uber pick-up or ordering a Dominos pizza.
Additionally, this interface will provide users with hands-free voice control for Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. You can also stream other popular music services like iTunes from your smartphone or tablet.
For business, users can also benefit from Alexa’s built-in Internet of Things (IoT) features. They can tell Alexa they are quitting for the day, and as soon as they door closes the lights go out, the computers go to sleep, and the door locks behind you. When you return the next day, the reverse can occur. Now, how cool is that?
Additionally, there are new uses for Echo, which so far Amazon has not advertised, suffice to say the specs on their Amazon store page note: “Always getting smarter and adding new features and skills – over 100 added since launch.”
Alexa enters the medical field
Continuing to outpace Siri, Amazon seems to be actively adding more and more ‘intelligence’ capabilities to Alexa’s automated make-up too.
Just this week, Boston Children’s Hospital released a new “skill app” called KidsMD, which fuels Alexa with the knowledge to offer simple medical advice to parents about symptoms and medications. Now any Alexa-enabled device (including smartphones carrying Telzio’s VoIP service) can download this new medical app.
Once enabled, parents can ask Alexa about symptoms, such as fevers, coughs, rashes and a lot more. This is excellent information, particularly in arming parents with valuable insights at to what to discuss with their children’s pediatricians.
Parents can also tell Alexa their child’s weight and age, which helps with dosing guidelines for over-the-counter medications. In order to protect family privacy, Alexa does not store any of this personal information.
In the future, the hospital hopes to expand the app’s knowledge to include data about poisonings, allergies, and other conditions that will provide parents with valuable medical knowledge before visiting doctors and/or taking their children to the hospital.
Will Alexa maintain their edge?
Hard to tell if Amazon’s Alexa will continue to out-perform Siri going forward. Particularly since Viv Labs, the co-founders of Siri have been working on a even more advanced bot that can do a whole lot more, based on being powered by a more powerful artificial-intelligence algorithm.
However, at this juncture, it does appear that Alexa does have the competitive edge — and with Telzio providing users with the opportunity to substitute their smartphone for the actual Echo device — IMHO, users are going to be favoring this one over the other, at least in the short-term.
For more information on Telzio’s integration with Amazon Echo, see my previous blog, titled, “Amazon Echo is Talking Back to Telzio.”