Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Amazon says push notifications are coming soon to Alexa-enabled devices

A big change is coming to Alexa-enabled devices. Rather than only responding after a human asks for information, skills will soon be able to send out alerts when they have information that the user has requested. Amazon revealed its plans Tuesday for the new push notifications feature.

Push notifications will only be sent after a user has opted in to getting them. And to be clear, the Echo or Dot unit isn’t going to suddenly start talking on its own. Instead, the device will light up and send out a chime sound to indicate that an alert is ready:

When available, users will be able to opt-in to notifications per skill using the Amazon Alexa App and will be alerted when there’s new information to retrieve by a chime and a pulsing green light on their Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show device.

Amazon says push notifications will be tested initially by companies such as AccuWeather, The Washington Post, Just Eat and Life360. Once enough user feedback is collected and appropriate improvements are completed, Amazon will release the development tools to all skill builders. There’s no specific time frame mentioned in Amazon’s announcement, but it does refer to a wider rollout “in the coming months.”

This should be very welcome news to companies that are looking to the Alexa platform as a new way to connect with their customers and audiences. Push notifications, when done right, can be an effective tool to grow user trust and loyalty, increase sales and so forth. But if an Alexa skill gets too pushy, users can cancel the alerts permanently at any time. Alerts can also be disabled temporarily by putting the device into Do Not Disturb mode.

There’s been some separation between what users can do with Alexa-enabled devices and typical mobile devices — push notifications being one big difference. This news, along with last week’s announcement that Alexa devices can support phone calls and messaging, shows that Amazon doesn’t consider Google Home its only competition, but your smartphone and tablet, too. And Amazon has made both of these announcements just as two of its biggest competitors hold major developer events of their own — Microsoft Build last week, and Google I/O, which begins Wednesday.

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Author: Matt McGee

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