Rolling out to all Echo devices this week, Amazon’s new update to the Alexa software will include the ability to make intercom-style calls between rooms that have an Echo, Echo Dot or an Echo Show. Useful for large families, users will be able to specify a room in the home they want to call. For instance, if a parent has just finished preparing dinner, they can use the Echo to call their kids to the table without having to shout across the home.
To activate this functionality, users will first need to download the Alexa app to their Android or iOS mobile device. Using the app, each Echo device within the home will have to be assigned a specific name. In addition, users will have to enable the drop-in feature to activate the intercom. The intercom function isn’t tied to a home’s Wi-Fi network, but rather to the household groups created within the app.
To place a call, the user will have to say something like “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen” in order to call the kitchen’s Echo device. Be aware that the drop-in feature lets users immediately start chatting with you or video conferencing if you have an Echo Show. This could be problematic for anyone in the family that prefers privacy over intrusion, such as the vast majority of teenagers.
Interestingly, users will also be able to activate the intercom system outside of the house using the smartphone or tablet app. For instance, a parent using the app could remotely call in order to make sure a latchkey kid got home safely from school. If video is enabled from a smartphone to an Echo Show, pet owners could use the device to check up on their dog or cat and speak over the intercom device.
This new feature is likely strategic by design for Amazon, as it basically increases the number of Echo devices customers would be likely to own and install within their homes. Ultimately, this will increase the accessibility of Alexa’s features within a home, ideal for a retail company that’s aggressively promoting voice ordering and other services like Amazon Music Unlimited.
Expect additional promotions related to voice ordering and sales on the Echo family of devices within the next two weeks. Amazon’s next Prime Day is currently scheduled for the second week of July 2017. It’s likely the Echo and Alexa will play a significant role in the event.