Voice-Control Your Printer

Amazon has announced its new ‘Printing With Alexa’ service that allows owners of Echo devices to operate their printer using voice commands.

Print What?

Printing With Alexa allows the simple “Alexa, print….” followed by what the user requires to produce a printed document.  Amazon says that the kinds of things that can be printed this way include “shopping and to-do lists, games like mazes and Sudoku, graph paper, lined paper, and test pages.”

The list of different documents, many of which are related to family activities, appears to reflect the working and learning from home that has become the new norm for many people over the last 6 months, and possibly again in the future with second spikes or more lockdowns. 

Connecting

Amazon says that the service will work with compatible printers that are connected to the same wireless network as your Alexa device (provided it is a compatible Echo device too). The service is activated when the user says “Alexa, discover my printer”, or navigates to the "Devices" screen in the Alexa App, selects “+”, selects “Add Device”, and chooses “Printer” as the device type. Amazon says that the service works with most IPP-enabled network-connected printers manufactured by HP, Brother, Canon, and Epson.

Ink or Toner Re-Orders

The service also enables automatic ordering ink or toner from Amazon at a 10 per cent discount, thereby acting as a kind of hands-free replenishment process and providing extra revenue for Amazon.

Brand Voice

Back in February, before the worldwide pandemic lockdowns and working-from-home hit, Amazon was more focused on features for the business market with Alexa as it offered a new ‘Brand Voice’ capability through AWS (Brand Polly) to companies which enabled them to create their own custom voice for Alexa to replace the default voice with one that reflected their “persona”, such as the voice of Colonel Sanders for KFC.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The ‘Printing With Alexa’ service is another step in Amazon’s plan to tie Alexa (and Echo devices) more closely in with all aspects of the user’s life e.g. making phone calls, setting their appointments, alarms and reminders, and linking in with many other devices on their home network plus IoT devices.  This strategy may put Amazon’s digital assistant at the heart of the operation of modern home and will, as in this case with the printer cartridge re-ordering, tie in with Amazon’s retailing platforms, thereby providing increased revenue for Amazon and a monetising of Alexa.  This may even spread to the ordering of groceries.  For example, in July, Amazon announced that it was taking on the supermarkets and Ocado in the UK with free grocery deliveries from its Amazon Fresh service.

Even though the pandemic has dampened business-targeted announcements, Amazon is still planning to keep monetising Alexa in the business market too where there is huge potential for modifications and different targeted and customised versions of Alexa and digital assistants.  For example, in April last year, Amazon launched its Alexa for Business Blueprints, which is a platform that enables businesses to make their own Alexa-powered applications for their organisation and incorporate their own customised, private ‘skills’.