Amazon’s new dev kit promises to bring Alexa far-field tech to more third-party devices

Back in December, component company Conexant announced that it had teamed up with Amazon to create a development kit for third-party manufacturers looking to build Alexa into their devices. The pair are back with a followup that brings a four-microphone array to the AudioSmart Development Kit for Alexa Voice Service.

Amazon opened up its far-field technology to developers last month, through a seven-mic array that promises to bring the Echo’s excellent voice recognition tech, which works remarkably well across rooms and in loud environments. Conexant’s offers a similar effect, with four on-board mics, a design decision made to help cut down on manufacturing costs.

The two-mic version has apparently been a success for all parties involved. A rep for the company pointed out that Ecobee utilized it for its recently announced Alexa-enabled smart thermostat. And hey, if you were a hardware manufacturer attempting to distinguish yourself in the ever more crowded smarthome space, why wouldn’t you tack some Alexa functionality onto your device?

It’s certainly a big win for Amazon. The company’s Echo products were something of a surprise hit, and now that Alexa is out in the world in a major way, the company can sit back and let third-party hardware manufacturers do much of the heavy lifting spreading the gospel of its smart assistant.

In addition to building whatever relevant skills directly into the device, baking Alexa directly into the product will also give access to its 12,000 or skills, essentially turning the product into a makeshift Echo. Adoption hasn’t been all that swift since the first third-party device featuring Alexa launched last year, but this definitely feels like the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, what having all of those microphones built into the walls of our homes means for any semblance of privacy we currently have left is another question entirely.

Conexant happily points to a projection by RBC Capital that puts the total Alexa device install base at 128 million by 2020 – and surely that won’t be all Echoes. Partnering with a company like Conexant, which has a direct in to supply chains will only serve to accelerate that adoption, giving Amazon an even stronger foothold in the smart home. Looks like Apple and Google have some catching up to do.