Amazon’s New Dash Button Hardware Offers Instant Orders For Staple Products

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon Dash: A way to order products with the touch of a button.

Amazon has new hardware called the Dash Button that allows one-press ordering of products you’re likely to want to replace on a regular basis. The adhesive buttons are meant to be hung in convenient places around the home — so, for example, you might stick the Tide-branded button on the washing machine or the Huggies button in the nursery. The free plastic device is slightly larger than your thumb and connects to Wi-Fi; when you press it, the device will automatically order another pack of your shaving cartridges or bottle of your face moisturizer from Amazon Prime. Trying to snare even more of its customers’ routine purchases, introduced new gadgets Tuesday that let customers buy frequently purchased items with a press of a button. And maybe you eat nothing but mac and cheese, and did not correctly calculate your stockpile, so that you’re stuck actually having to cook real food one night.

Amazon clearly hopes that if you have a physical one-button device near the place where you actually consume these consumables, you’re more likely to have the presence of mind to order them via its service before you run out, when a trip to the corner store might prove more convenient even than home delivery. The new Dash Button is a pocket-knife-sized device that’s dedicated to a specific product, such as Tide detergent, Gillette razor blades or Gatorade sports drink.

Using the Amazon smartphone app, consumers will configure the button to order exactly what they want — such as a four-pack of Gillette razors or a 12-pack. Once it’s configured, the button will automatically trigger an order to your default address using your default Amazon payment order, and you can cancel it via your phone should you have second thoughts. Amazon won’t trigger another order made via subsequent button presses until the first one is delivered, the company notes, unless you override that manually. That’s hardly enough to keep tabs on all the necessities in your house, but could be useful for people who can’t go out to purchase essential items. This is just a new extreme for the world’s largest store, a store that makes it impossibly easy to buy things without overthinking it, or thinking it at all.

The benefits for Amazon are obvious: A home armed with Dash buttons makes it easier than ever for people to purchase goods from the company and encourages them to buy more often. Companies can either add a physical button to their hardware, or use Amazon’s services to measure consumable usage so that goods are ordered automatically. When it discovered the current bulb had just 48 hours of life, it said its goodbyes, moved on, and quickly logged into Amazon and bought me another one. Amazon has partnered with four companies — Whirlpool, Brita, Brother and New York-based invention company Quirky — to release products throughout 2015 that connect to the web and run DRS. The hardware itself is free, however, as Amazon clearly wants to make the purchasing process as easy as possible in the interest of selling more consumables down the road.

In turn, DRS runs on Amazon Web Services, the infrastructure platform that stores and crunches data for more than 1 million customers, including NASA, Netflix and Pinterest. Likewise, a group household products — an artisanal coffee maker, pet food dispenser and infant formula dispenser — manufactured by Quirky requests more coffee beans, pet food or infant formula when they run low.

Amazon already has your credit card information on file, and knows what size and quantity you want, so two days later, that product shows up at your house. The gadget is an expansion of the business the company created with Amazon’s Dash, a wandlike device that lets subscribers of its Prime Fresh online grocery service scan bar codes in their homes to add products to their shopping carts. One thing Amazon learned from the Dash is that most people re-order the same couple of things over and over, and that they have a tendency to forget to do so when they’re not near their Dash. This isn’t Amazon’s first foray into the so-called Internet of Things, a growing gaggle of web-connected items and devices capable of tracking your behavior. In November, the tech giant announced Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled cylinder-shaped device that is part speaker, part virtual assistant and lets users play music, create to-do lists and listen to the news.

Whirlpool is designing a washer and dryer that will anticipate when laundry supplies are running low, to trigger automatic purchases using the service. Each button is linked to a brand—Amazons launching in partnership with Gillette, Cottonelle, Gatorade, Kraft, Olay, Tide, and a handful of others, but soon anyone can join the program—and you decide which specific product you want when you first set up the free button. Amazon is among a slew of tech companies, from Facebook to Samsung, that are betting web-connected devices like coffee makers and washers and dryers will become cash cows in a few years.

A video introducing the service shows an exasperated woman unable to make her morning coffee because she’s run out of Maxwell House pods for her automatic coffee maker. But it’s an open question whether consumers will be willing to festoon their homes with the chunky, white plastic buttons in the name of convenience.

Put another way,the market may be more than twice the size of the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car and wearable market combined come 2019, according to a Business Insider report. It’s much smarter to just make it really easy to order more Gatorades when you notice there’s only one left in the fridge—plus, it almost certainly means you’ll drink more Gatorade over time. That’s all well and good (if hypothetical), but assuming the smart home concept takes off, companies like Amazon, Facebook and Samsung will face real challenges along the way around adoption and security. (Amazon, for its part, told Mashable that DRS adopts the same security standards used in other areas of its business, including standard web site purchases.) And in the long term, it’s unclear whether these devices will “play nice” if they run on different software platforms.

Along with buttons, Amazon is launching what it calls the Dash Replenishment Service, which is ultimately designed to do away with the buttons entirely. Companies that make products can bake this technology into their own hardware: things like coffeemakers, washer/dryers, printers, and pet food dispensers. It’s not so great for household goods like paper towels, but Amazon is betting that eventually these sensors will get so small and cheap to make, that you could have them in individual products too. New York-based Quirky has designed a pour-over coffee maker (see the image to the right) that keeps track of both its bean reservoir and your filter supply. Oddball inventor’s laboratory Quirky is building a connected coffeepot and an infant formula machine, both of which can order their own refills and replacement equipment.

Similarly, Quirky has come up with both pet food and baby formula dispensers that keep track of how much supply you have left and will reorder when it notices you’re low. You know that Brita filter you haven’t replaced in three years? (I’m nodding my head.) It’ll automatically get another one shipped out as soon as it’s needed. Longtime users of Amazon’s “subscribe and save” service also tend to get better deals on recurring purchases on the very same types of products where Dash buttons would make the most sense, but Dash isn’t able to optimize for price changes, at least not right now.

And as much as I’m terrified, and worried about Amazon’s capitalistic impulses and the vast amounts of deeply personal data it will collect about me, I keep coming back to that burned-out light bulb. The key difference is that this is open to a potentially much larger group than the food delivery service, which currently runs $299 a year and exists only in Seattle, parts of California, and New York. It also removes an entire step in the process by letting you buy things instantly, whereas Dash requires you to log into Amazon from your phone or computer to verify and order. Taking a step back, Amazon Dash buttons and the service that powers them are perhaps the clearest example of where human ingenuity intersects with laziness.

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