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Alexa, Smart Home Speakers Get Popular in India

Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel.

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The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA
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 Smart home speakers are steadily gaining ground in India and Amazon’s Echo range has been appreciated the most so far, followed by Google Home.

Led by Amazon Echo, with 59 per cent market share, the smart speakers category in India grew 43 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) this year, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.

Analysts see the nascent smartphone market in India growing beyond entertainment and Amazon, with its top-of-the-line voice-based Alexa platform, has brought the second iteration of its Echo smart home speaker to the country that is able to control connected devices around you and does not need third-party support.

The Indian smart home devices market which consists of connected lights, smart speakers, connected thermostats, smart TVs, home monitoring/security products and digital media adapters saw a healthy year-on-year growth of 107 per cent to hit 1.4 million shipments in the second quarter.

Google , US, Alexa
In this March 2, 2016, file photo, David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down on an Echo Dot in San Francisco. VOA

Let us see what the Rs 14,999 All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with a smarter Alexa has to offer.

The top has four buttons — two to adjust volume, one to wake up Alexa and one mute button — along with seven ergonomically-placed microphones.

This time, the 780-gram device goes beyond reading daily news, playing music, announcing weather or ordering food.

The All-New Echo Plus comes with a built-in smart hub that helps you set up compatible Zigbee-enabled smart home devices directly, just using your voice.

Amazon Alexa. Flickr
Amazon Alexa. Flickr

Zigbee is a wireless technology developed to enable low-cost, low-power wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks.

Just ask Alexa to discover your devices and begin controlling compatible lights, plugs, locks, thermostats, sensors and in-wall switches.

For example, Echo Plus connected directly to Philips Hue light-bulbs.

Insert the bulb into a receptacle and tell Alexa to discover new devices. Within no time, she will throw up the name of the device (in this case, the light-bulb).

Start controlling the device, like “switch on the light Alexa”.

You can also control compatible lights and plugs from Syska, TP-Link and Oakter.

With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus heard us from almost all directions.

Google , US, Alexa
Alexa, which comes with Echo speakers and other gadgets, starts recording after it hears its name or another “wake word” selected by users. Pixabay

Housing new speakers powered by Dolby and enhanced back volume, the bass felt stronger and the sound crisp and clear.

One feature that is worth mentioning is the equaliser (EQ) feature that allows users to personalise sounds by adjusting the bass, mid-range and treble.

Just ask Alexa to increase or decrease a specific band like “turn up the bass” or “decrease the treble” and she does it for you.

We could also made adjustments through the Alexa app.

The new Echo Plus also has a temperature sensor, making it possible for Alexa to tell the temperature in any room (it works with a compatible smart home thermostat).

With the device, call or message your friends and members in the family who also has an Echo device or the Alexa App.

Google , US, Alexa
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

Simply ask “Alexa, how do I set up calling?” and get started.

What doesn’t work?

Alexa is getting smarter by the day and we will soon have more local functionalities in it. At the moment, the device gives the best smart speaker experience.

Also Read: Snapchat’s Camera May Help You Shop at Amazon

Conclusion: From a tall, metal cylinder look in the first generation, Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel. The second-generation Echo Plus with a far more intelligent Alexa is a real upgrade if you have experienced the first generation Echo. (IANS)

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Apple Expands Its Campus to Austin, East and West U.S.

The infusion of thousands of new and highly paid residents can ripple through an economy

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Apple, Campus, China
A customer is entering the Apple store in Fairfax, Virginia. VOA

Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, break ground on smaller locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and over the next three years expand in Pittsburgh, New York and Colorado.

The tech giant said Thursday that the new campus in Austin, less than a mile from existing Apple facilities, will open with 5,000 positions in engineering, research and development, operations, finance, sales, and customer support. The site, according to Apple, will have the capacity to eventually accommodate 15,000 employees.

The three other new locations will have more than 1,000 employees each.

Early this year, Apple said that it would make more than $30 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S. over the next five years. That, the company said in January, would create more than 20,000 new jobs at existing and new campuses that Apple planned to build.

Apple, Campus, Tim cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event to announce new products, Oct. 30, 2018, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. VOA 

Where U.S. companies open new facilities or plants has always had the potential for public and political backlash.

That potential has intensified under the Trump administration, which has pushed companies to keep more of their operations inside the country’s borders.

While CEO Tim Cook has steered mostly clear President Donald Trump’s ire, Apple did receive some push back three months ago from the White House.

Apple sent a letter to the U.S. trade representative warning that the burgeoning trade war with China and rising tariffs could force higher prices for U.S. consumers.

Trump in a tweet told Apple to start making its products in the U.S., and not China.

Apple uses a lot of facilities overseas to produce components and its products, including China.

Apple, Tim Cook, Campus
A guest looks at the Touch Bar on a MacBook computer shown in a demo room following the announcement of new products at Apple headquarters, in Cupertino, California. VOA

Top tech executives from Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Qualcomm gathered at the White House earlier this month to discuss strained ties between the administration and the industry, and trade tensions with China. Cook was not among them, nor was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

There are already 6,000 Apple employees in Austin, its largest operation outside of company headquarters in Cupertino, California, where 37,000 people are employed.

“Apple has been a vital part of the Austin community for a quarter century, and we are thrilled that they are deepening their investment in our people and the city we love,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a prepared statement Thursday.

Apple said nearly a year ago that it would begin canvassing the U.S. for another campus.

Cities offered incentives to lure the company, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another as Amazon did over the last year and a half.

Apple, Tim Cook, Campus
iPhone 8 was also launched with a special edition red colour, Pixabay

Amazon, too, expands

Amazon announced in November after a 14-month search it had selected Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Virginia, as the joint winners. Each site will employ around 25,000 people.

Cities are eager to bring in more tech employers because companies like Apple and Amazon ladle out six-figure salaries to engineers and other skilled workers.

Also Read: China Bans iPhone Sales Due to Patent Dispute

The infusion of thousands of new and highly paid residents can ripple through an economy, with those employees filling restaurants, theaters, buying property and paying taxes.

Annual pay will vary at the new locations, but Apple workers in Cupertino have an average annual salary of about $125,000, according to a report the company submitted to the city. (VOA)