Potentially hung up in a maze of regulatory and privacy concerns, Alphabet and Amazon reportedly have been working on ways to turn their home Internet-connected devices into phones.
The two tech giants could launch the ability to make and receive voice calls from their Internet-connected hubs later this year, according to one report -- a concept that MediaPost described in 2016 when Google first announced Google Home at its annual developers' conference.
For years, Google has been carefully building each piece to make it possible to receive and make calls through a hub. It already has an Internet-connected calling tools, Google Voice, and a broadband connection through Google Fiber.
Amazon Echo could use a voice-over-Internet protocol technology as well, but the ecommerce marketplace also could partner with Microsoft to use Skype as a voice-over-protocol tool. The two companies, Microsoft and Amazon, already have a strong partnership. Amazon Echo relies on Bing to serve some search queries. One report suggests Google Home and Amazon Echo could also refer incoming or outgoing calls through the hubs from a mobile phone.
Amazon has already been working on ways to connect two points of content. Take the Dash Button, for example. Cnet breaks down the internal components to describe how each piece of the product reordering device works. The battery-powered device, which sends the signal through WiFi, is a type of computer -- although not a fast or powerful one. It does have a circuit board and processor and uses a microphone as a communications tool.
The Amazon Dash Button sends a call from one machine to another, enabling the consumer to order another product that is specific to that button.
This digital footprint that Google and Amazon will create from a continuous flow of data across their respective networks coming from all things connected to the Internet, along with artificial intelligence (AI), will improve and perfect ad-targeting options through a series of check and balances that include inbound and outbound calls.
"The 180 year-old technology that is the phone call is sexy once again," Mike Boland, BIA/Kelsey chief analyst and VP of content, wrote in an unrelated post about call tracking and analytics. "As the 'personal assistant app wars' rage on, AI advancements will spin off and benefit call commerce and big voice."
Still, Boland's skeptical that Echo, Home, and other hub devices will cause a meaningful dent in call volume, especially in the near future. He gives two reasons. For starters, "if you look at the numbers, these devices are selling fast but still are a drop in the bucket compared to smartphone penetration. There are estimated to be 24 million units sold this year, compared with 2.6 billion smartphones, which is the total global penetration of devices in the market today, not necessarily 2017 sales," he wrote in an email to Search Marketing Daily.
Second, taking that one step further, the frequency of calls are much higher with smartphones, he wrote. "It will take a long cycle of training consumers and acclimating them to treat IOT devices as a telephone, not to mention that the user experience, hunching over a device to initiate and complete a phone call, isn't a comfort level that most consumers have."
It will also require changing and re-training "entrenched" consumer behavior is always an uphill battle, he explains.