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Alexa, call mom: Amazon and Google want to add voice calls to digital assistants

Why it matters to you

Google and Amazon appear ready to elbow their way into the home phone realm, likely adding voice calls to their respective Home and Echo devices

To add to an already extensive list of available features, Amazon and Google may soon include home phone functionality tied directly to their respective Echo and Home devices, granting them the ability to make and receive phone calls. According to the Wall Street Journal, such a move to include phone call compatibility would only further increase each device’s relative control over its users’ “digital lives at home.”

A voice calling feature allows the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices to have other capabilities such as messaging, caller ID, and completely hands-free calls. The home phone capability remains a priority feature each company wants to add this year, however, they do face a few logistical challenges. On one hand, privacy stands as a chief concern, as people may not enjoy having conversations on a device capable of recording everything they say. Apparently, Amazon only gathers metadata about calls — like phone numbers and the lengths of calls — as opposed to the actual conversations themselves.

google home
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Amazon and Google also have to get over other hurdles pertaining to 911 laws, regulations, and the impact it could have on other industries. If smart speakers such as the Echo or Home become home phones, companies such as AT&T and Verizon — of which sell traditional home phone services — would certainly feel the pinch. It’s no secret the landline business’ trajectory faces downward, and this new feature serves as another hit to this already struggling industry.

In addition to logistical challenges, the tech giants also intend to consider a few different options pertaining to implementation. These include each smart speaker boasting their own phone numbers, the device potentially syncing to a person’s existing phone number, Google or Amazon developing their own calling tool, or the Echo and Home connecting with an external provider — like Vonage or Skype. It’s likely the device makes use of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology, instead.