One day, Alexa will be everyone’s housemate
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One day, Alexa will be everyone’s housemate

Ecommerce titan Amazon has designs on your home – specifically, it wants Alexa (its virtual personal assistant) to be a part of it. And it’s recently announced a raft of new connected tech to help put it there. As well as fancy gadgets like connected microwaves, though, Amazon is pursuing a more direct route into customers’ homes – by investing in a company that makes them. That’s the news that broke at the end of last week, when Amazon announced it was taking part in a fundraising round for Plant Prefab.

Amazon’s share price has appreciated by 69% so far this year

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SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

Plant Prefab is a California-based company that manufactures modules which can be quickly assembled into a home at a construction site. These ‘prefab’ homes have, in the past, been more traditionally associated with the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. But Plant Prefab’s business aims a little higher, and it works with architects to design the kind of homes that hit wealthier customers’ sensibilities. Those include modern finishes, environment-friendly materials, and… virtual personal assistants? Maybe one day.

The company’s investment in Plant Prefab comes from its Alexa Fund – an Amazon venture that is specifically designed to push Alexa further than she’s ever gone before. Explaining the investment, the Fund’s director, Paul Bernard, said: “Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home. Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing.”

This investment might be a long-term play by Amazon to build a successful infrastructure for that point in the future when the connected home becomes an everyday reality. The company’s various new voice-controlled devices are likely to be popular, but the risk with putting Alexa in a microwave is that the buyer only ever uses her to cook things. A virtual personal assistant who comes installed as a central feature in the home might wind up becoming a more fundamental feature in users’ lives. That’s certainly something that Plant Prefab’s CEO, Steve Glenn, sees as a possibility. He said: “In the not-too-distant future there will be home automation and smart-home technology that’s part of that.”

Disclosure

Dominion holds Amazon in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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