The massive popularity of Amazon’s Alexa assistant makes a dedicated Alexa skill almost a requirement for almost any IoT product targeted at the consumer home. Echo sales have topped 8 million units. Google Home was later to the game and has probably sold around 200 thousand units, but it’s starting to catch up to Amazon’s massive lead. Apple just announced their competitor to Home and Echo in the HomePod, a similarly designed speaker with Siri AI. HomePod is very late to the game and consumer adoption is yet to be seen.
So, we have three competing voice control platforms for today’s smart homes. How difficult is it to integrate with these platforms? Alexa and Google Home have similar structures. Alexa has a “skills” market, which are essentially third-party apps for Alexa. Google’s equivalent is the “actions” market. Both require you develop a server to process and run the skill. Google offers API.AI to all developers for free and you can host your server anywhere. Amazon requires you to host your skill on an AWS Lambda server, but those Lambda servers cost less than $20 to set up. Both are compatible with node.js, an extremely popular server platform (and our personal favorite at Glow Labs). Apple is a big unknown. So far, they have not announced any 3rd party “skills” or “actions” for the HomePod. It looks like you’ll have to get your device MFI certified and HomeKit-enabled to work with their new HomePod. That’s a process that far exceeds the difficulty of integrating with Alexa and Google Home.
Amazon is not too strict with skill submissions. Your code and your security must be up to their standards and they check this when you submit your skill. Their standards aren’t unachievably high, there are thousands of skills available today, but you can’t submit prototype garbage and expect it to make it through. Amazon does provide feedback to developers during the review process so you get an opportunity to fix any issues and resubmit. The review process takes 2-7 days.
Google is stricter than Amazon with action submissions. There are ~100 actions in the Google Home store today. Like Amazon, they will provide feedback during the review process. Google Cloud is offering a $300 credit for their cloud servers which can host actions.