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Main article: Dash Replenishment

All topics: 4

Amazon makes it easier for smart home devices to alert customers to low supply levels

17:38 | 26 September

Alongside all the new Alexa-powered consumer devices Amazon introduced yesterday, the company also unveiled a new set of tools for the makers of smart home device skills that will allow them to tap into Alexa to re-order their supplies. Think — things like printer ink, air filters for smart thermostats, detergent for washing machines, or anything else that has replaceable parts.

This is an area Amazon has focused on before, by way of the Dash Replenishment Service, or DRS. Devices that use the service’s APIs can automatically re-order their supplies, after a customer sets up their account and selects the product they’ll want to be shipped when they run low.

The new set of tools is an extension to that earlier service, as it will allow the device makers to alert their customers they’re low on necessary supplies by way of Alexa’s skills.

This will work by way of a new set of inventory sensors, due to launch soon, in Amazon’s Smart Home Skill API. There are three different types of sensors to choose from, depending on the device’s needs.

DARTpic.png. CB452512254

The first to arrive sometime later this year is the Alexa.InventoryLevelSensor. This will address the needs of devices where the consumable product is stored internally — like the batteries in smart cameras or printer ink, for example.

Next year, two other sensors will launch. The Alexa.InventoryUsageSensor will work when the product is not stored internally, but the device can determine when a certain amount of consumable inventory is used. In this case, good examples would include a smart coffee pot, washing machine, or dishwasher.

The third, Alexa.InventoryLevelUsageSensor, can be used when the consumable product is stored internally, and the device can report on its usage rather than its current state. For example, a smart thermostat could report the fan time to let customers know it’s time to change the air filter. Or a vacuum cleaner could alert customers to replace a dust bag.

By using these APIs, Alexa can help the customers manage their household supplies, by letting them know they’re low or helping them to set up automatic re-orders in the Alexa app. If the customer chooses to set up smart re-ordering, that’s when the Dash Replenishment Service will kick in. Unlike Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” shopping feature, these smart home supply re-orders will only be placed when the consumable item is running low.

The benefit of this design is that it can help nudge smart home device users to place orders — from Amazon, the company hopes, just by having Alexa remind them. And it can also work even if the customer doesn’t want to set up automatic re-ordering for some reason — perhaps because they shop for supplies locally or want to comparison shop online.

Amazon says August, Blink, Ring, Schlage, and Yale are already working on including inventory sensors to report battery levels from their skills, and Coway is working to report the usage of air filters.

In addition to helping their customers manage their household, the new feature will also enable smart home kill developers to establish recurring revenue streams associated with their devices. When a customer signs up for Dash Replenishment, Amazon pays out a one-time referral fee. And then as the re-orders come in, developers will earn a revenue share on all the orders placed — even if ordered manually following an Alexa notification. Of course, if the device maker is selling its own manufactured products, they’ll earn even more.

Amazon says all U.S. developers will be able to use the new inventory sensors soon.

 


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Amazon stops selling stick-on Dash buttons

13:56 | 1 March

Amazon has confirmed it’s retired physical stick-on Dash buttons from sale — in favor of virtual alternatives that let Prime Members tap a digital button to reorder a staple product.

It also points to its Dash Replenishment service — which offers an API for device makers wanting to build Internet connected appliances that can automatically reorder the products they need to function — be it cat food, batteries or washing power — as another reason why physical Dash buttons, which launched back in 2015 (costing $5 a pop), are past their sell by date.

Amazon says “hundreds” of IoT devices capable of self-ordering on Amazon have been launched globally to date by brands including Beko, Epson, illy, Samsung and Whirlpool, to name a few.

So why press a physical button when a digital one will do? Or, indeed, why not do away with the need to push a button all and just let your gadgets rack up your grocery bill all by themselves while you get on with the importance business of consuming all the stuff they’re ordering?

You can see where Amazon wants to get to with its “so customers don’t have to think at all about restocking” line. Consumption that entirely removes the consumer’s decision making process from the transactional loop is quite the capitalist wet dream. Though it does need to be careful about consumer protection rules as it seeks to remove all friction from the buying process.

The ecommerce behemoth also claims customers are “increasingly” using its Alexa voice assistant to reorder staples, such as via the Alexa Shopping voice shopping app (Amazon calls it ‘hands free shopping’) that lets people inform the machine about a purchase intent and it will suggest items to buy based on their Amazon order history.

Albeit, it offers no actual usage metrics for Alexa Shopping. So that’s meaningless PR.

A less flashy but perhaps more popular option than ‘hands free shopping’, which Amazon also says has contributed to making physical Dash buttons redundant, is its Subscribe & Save program.

This “lets customers automatically receive their favourite items every month”, as Amazon puts it. It offers an added incentive of discounts that kick in if the user signs up to buy five or more products per month. But the mainstay of the sales pitch is convenience with Amazon touting time saved by subscribing to ‘essentials’ — and time saved from compiling boring shopping lists once again means more time to consume the stuff being bought on Amazon…

In a statement about retiring physical Dash buttons from global sale on February 28, Amazon also confirmed it will continue to support existing Dash owners — presumably until their buttons wear down to the bare circuit board from repeat use.

“Existing Dash Button customers can continue to use their Dash Button devices,” it writes. “We look forward to continuing support for our customers’ shopping needs, including growing our Dash Replenishment product line-up and expanding availability of virtual Dash Buttons.”

So farewell then clunky Dash buttons. Another physical push-button bites the dust. Though plastic-y Dash were quite unlike the classic iPhone home button — seeming temporary and experimental rather than slick and coolly reassuring. Even as the end of both points to the need for tech businesses to tool up for the next wave of contextually savvy connected devices. More smarts, and more controllable smarts is key.

Amazon’s statement about ‘shifting focus’ for Dash does not mention potential legal risks around the buttons related to consumer rights challenges — but that’s another angle here.

In January a court in Germany ruled Dash buttons breached local ecommerce rules, following a challenge by a regional consumer watchdog that raised concerns about T&Cs which allow Amazon to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product entirely than what the consumer had originally selected. The watchdog argued consumers should be provided with more information about price and product before taking the order — and the judges agreed. Though Amazon said it would seek to appeal.

While it’s not clear whether or not that legal challenge contributed to Amazon’s decision to shutter Dash, it’s clear that virtual Dash buttons offer more opportunities for displaying additional information prior to a purchase than a screen-less physical Dash button. So are more easily adapted to meet any tightening legal requirements in different markets.

The demise of the physical Dash was reported earlier by CNET.

 


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GE’s WiFi dishwasher orders detergent through Amazon Dash

14:30 | 11 October

The press release for GE’s newest washing machine opens with the words, “Life is complicated enough.” I mean, fair enough. Thus far the week has been marked by one of the most bizarre presidential debates in the history of the office and Samsung phone that just can’t seem to stop malfunction – and it’s only the Tuesday of a four-day work week.

If keeping track of dishwashing detergent has ever seemed like one responsibility too many, great news – there’s a smart dishwasher for you. GE’s incorporating Amazon’s Dash Replenishment its new connected kitchen appliance, so the machine will just go ahead and order dish detergent pods when your supply is running low.

The machine calculates remaining pods based on washing cycles, reordering when things get down to 10 or so pods – a number than can be adjusted I the company’s Kitchen app. Pretty much the same deal as the one you’ll find on the company’s line of Dash Replenishment-enabled laundry offerings introduced early this year.

The new line of GE dishwashers will be the first to sport Amazon’s Dash technology built in. Amazon went live with the program early this year and has since added a wide range of different product categories, including printers, coffee brewers, a garbage can and even a blood glucose monitor.

 


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Amazon adds several new devices to its Dash Replenishment auto ordering service

22:35 | 4 August

At the beginning of the year, Amazon flipped the switch on Dash Replenishment, a service aimed at bringing the instant reordering of its devoted product buttons directly to connected devices. The idea being that you don’t have to, say, order ink for your printer or batteries for your smart lock — the devices will do it for you.

The retail giant has already announced a slew of different partners for the program, including Brother Printers, the Gmate SMART blood glucose monitor and a GE washing machine, all of which went live in the first round.

Today the company announced a number of new additions. The highest profile of the additions is GE, which will be extending its involvement to driers and dishwashers, which will be updated to order fabric softener and dishwasher detergent, respectively, when supplies start to dwindle.

Neato joins the list as well, bringing the Wi-Fi-connected robot to the service to order replacement filters and brushes, while Petcube’s Kickstarter-supported Bites camera will be able to order pet food. Also on the list are the Behmore Connected coffee brewer, Simplehuman trashcan and SmartThings platform.

Even The Hershey Company has been added to the stable with an unnamed device. That should be interesting.

 


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All topics: 4

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