So the smart dorm room is a thing now

Echo goes to University

The smart dorm room is a thing now

It was inevitable. Saint Louis University in Missouri is installing Amazon Echo Dots in 2,300 dorm rooms for the new school year. That's smart speakers in every dorm room on campus.

The Echo Dots won't be tied to the students' personal Amazon accounts; Saint Louis is using Alexa for Business with a central university account and there is a custom SLU skill that lets students ask questions like "Alexa, what time does the library close tonight?"

Read this: How Airbnb hosts are adapting to the smart home

That skill was created by N-Powered, which has also been working on a similar skill for Northeastern University which is due to launch this autumn.


So the smart dorm room is a thing now

The school of connected life

OK so aside from the fact that there's gonna be a whole lot of Skyrim: Very Special Edition being played in SLU dorms pretty soon, there's actually a lot going on here.

First up, the fact SLU is pre-installing the Echo Dots. That's something we're going to see more of – whether it's hotel rooms, dorm rooms, offices or connected apartments. Smart home tech will become part of the furniture. And it's really not that expensive to implement. There is the issue of not everyone wanting a free Alexa device in their room – SLU's advice in this instance is to just unplug it.

That FAQ skill is real nice and we can see universities around the world jumping on this idea as a way to get across essential information to new students. A skill's a skill, though, you don't need to have a smart speaker on the university account in your room.

Which brings us to the Alexa for Business model which we think makes a lot of sense… for business. Does it make sense here? Would you want recordings of voice requests you make in the privacy of your university halls on some centralised account? I wouldn't. Even if SLU insists that "all use is currently anonymous" and that the skill only offers answers to questions around public information like the names of upcoming speakers or sports scores.

If nothing else, it's ripe for hacking – I mean, what are students gonna do in 2018, re-invent Facebook? We could see some epic pranks if the Alexa dorm room takes off.

Lastly, is the dorm room the right place for smart home tech? It could be if you keep it simple, cheap and portable. Because let's face it, there's a high chance of this stuff getting stolen, broken or thrown out of a window.


So the smart dorm room is a thing now

The smart dorm room tech to get

We've seen a few articles suggesting that teens who are used to interacting with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri at home might miss their assistants when they make the big move. A cheap smart speaker could even help students feel less homesick, sort of like taking your tech butler with you.

The budget $49.99 Echo Dot is the obvious choice – you can connect it to borrowed 'dumb' speakers for parties – but the more expensive alarm-clock style Amazon Echo Spot could also be a good shout that would-be scholars could convince their parents to buy as a gift.

So the smart dorm room is a thing now

If there's a crappy TV in the main space, you could win some brownie points by producing a Google Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick to give it a connected streaming upgrade.

And sure if your parents want to buy you a nice kooky lamp, you could stick a budget smart light bulb like Ikea Trådfri in there – a budget range of Ikea smart plugs is also likely to arrive very soon.

But otherwise, we'd say fat chance playing around with no doubt ancient university light fittings. Anything you need to install – doorbells etc – is probably also a no-no in dorms.

Whatever you go for, just don't go overboard and try to entrap potential bed sharers into your room with promises of your den of connectivity. All in good time, all in good time.


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