Amazon's smart home chief says its Alexa devices are being used more than before the pandemic, with spikes in everything from streamed Peloton classes to requests for bread recipes

  • As coronavirus cases rise and people continue staying home, Amazon says people are using their smart home devices more than they were before the pandemic.
  • "We do definitely see in the data that some dominant patterns are different — use is just a little bit more consistent throughout the day versus having peaks and valleys around when people leave their home during the day and come back," Daniel Rausch, Amazon's vice president of smart home, told Business Insider.
  • Since the onset of the pandemic, Amazon has seen an uptick in fitness and wellness classes streaming on Fire TV, with a 300% spike in Peloton engagement since earlier this year. 
  • And as the bread-making trend took America by storm earlier this year, Amazon saw people asking Alexa for bread recipes more than double.
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People are spending more time at home than ever before — and that means they're spending more time with their smart home devices, too. 

When the first Amazon Echo made its debut in 2014, six years ago this month, the smart home as we know it now was still in its infancy, but over time, it's become synonymous with convenience and efficiency — Alexa can tell you the weather outside rather than you having to look it up yourself, or turn on your home's evening lighting scheme before you even get home from work.

So what happens to a system is designed to save you time and get you in and out of your house as quickly as possible when we stop leaving the house altogether? 

Daniel Rausch, Amazon's vice president of smart home, told Business Insider in a recent interview that, as we all have this year, Amazon's users have adapted. Customers are using their devices differently than they did before, and they're also using them more, Rausch said.

"We do definitely see in the data that some dominant patterns are different — use is just a little bit more consistent throughout the day versus having peaks and valleys around when people leave their home during the day and come back," Rausch said. 

In aggregate, he said, people are using their devices more than they were before the pandemic.

What seems to have changed most significantly is the types of features customers are using now, tools like Alexa calling or Drop In, which essentially allows you to use Alexa-enabled devices like an intercom system, connecting to one of your contacts automatically. Alexa also now works with Zoom, which means users can take Zoom meetings on devices with screens, like the Echo Show.

The latest Echo Show, which Amazon debuted in September, can automatically turn to follow you around the room, which Rausch said he uses while cooking and taking calls simultaneously. 

Beyond communication features, Amazon has also seen an uptick in fitness and wellness apps streaming on Fire TV devices — Peloton in particular has surged, with 300% growth in engagement since the onset of the pandemic, while customers doing guided meditation on Headspace spiked 80% between February and July, according to Amazon. 

And even Alexa wasn't safe from the bread-making trend that took America by storm this year: People asking Alexa for bread recipes more than doubled between February and July, Amazon said. 

As for the future of the smart home, Rausch said the pandemic has given his team "a greater sense of urgency" when it comes to creating convenience for customers. If we're going to spend this much time at home, our homes should be able to work harder for us, he said.

"We all have too much to worry about right now," Rausch said. "The more that we can make some things disappear for customers, even if it's just going around and turning out the lights at night, even if it's just making sure that you come home to a clean home when you're out for groceries by starting the robot vacuum, even if it's just things like taking care of the temperature in your home overnight and helping you monitor how often the TV or lights are on. Those things add up for customers."

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