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Amazon, Dish and the Untapped Potential of the Internet of Things

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We live in a networked age. There are social networks, TV networks, Wi-Fi networks, telecom networks and wireless networks. And, very soon, there might be an entirely new network dedicated specifically to the Internet of Things.

That’s the bold new vision that Dish Network and Amazon are purportedly working on. According to reports that have leaked to the media since mid-summer, this would be a vast new wireless network that would enable Internet-connected objects to talk to each other.

Why an Internet of Things network makes sense

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If you think about it for a second, such a network dedicated to the Internet of Things makes sense. There are networks specifically created for TVs and networks specifically created for smartphones, so why not a network specifically created for the growing number of Internet-connected objects in your home?

And, from a business perspective, it’s clear why Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are so keen to move forward with this idea.

For Dish Network, this would mean an opportunity to diversify away from its core (but shrinking) satellite TV business and enter the booming wireless industry. And with the deep-pocketed Amazon as a founding partner, the company would presumably have plenty of cash to build out this network on a national scope.

For Amazon, this network would probably start off connecting Internet-connected objects such as its Amazon Echo smart home assistant as well as all Amazon Fire devices and provide a new way to deepen its relationships with customers.

Amazon, e-commerce and the Internet of Things

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In May, for example, Amazon and Dish Network signed a deal that could offer a preview of what’s to come if the two companies actively collaborate on an Internet of Things (IoT) network. Some Dish customers were given the ability to control their set-top boxes through their Amazon Echo speakers. And Amazon made Dish streaming TV apps available on Amazon Fire devices.

But let’s go one step further: Amazon is purportedly working on a vast network of delivery drones to deliver packages to customer homes. And what would be better than a dedicated wireless network for these Internet-connected drones to communicate with one another while on the go?

So think about this scenario for a moment: a delivery drone circling overhead might be able to connect wirelessly with your Amazon Echo smart home assistant, transmitting information and updates without having to use cable networks or Wi-Fi networks from competitors. You might even be able to use an Amazon Echo voice command like, “Alexa, open the front door for the delivery drone.” (Providing, of course, that you have a doorknob connected to the Internet of Things)

Amazon, supermarkets and the Internet of Things

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And don’t forget that Amazon recently acquired the supermarket chain Whole Foods Market. And that’s where things get really interesting – imagine using the Internet of Things to control the entire process of ordering and delivering groceries. The days of packing bags of groceries into your SUV and battling traffic on the roads could be coming to an end.

Say, for example, you have an Internet-connected refrigerator that is able to monitor all the food you have inside. It would know when you’re getting low on milk, for example. Or when you’re about to run out of peanut butter for the kids. Since it’s connected to the Internet, it would be able to talk to your Amazon Echo. And that means you could ask Alexa to automatically generate a shopping list and order items anytime you’re running low.

And since Amazon owns Whole Foods, you’d naturally place an order with Whole Foods. Internet-connected forklifts at an Internet-connected warehouse would then pick Internet-connected food containers off warehouse shelves and load them into an Internet-connected delivery drone, which would then be able to coordinate a “delivery window” with your Amazon Echo. Your Amazon Echo could then make sure that you get a nice alert on your Amazon Fire device when the delivery drone is about to arrive. Presto! An amazing new shopping experience all made possible by the Internet of Things.

Amazon Prime and the Internet of Things

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And some business analysts have conjectured that Amazon wouldn’t stop there – once Dish and Amazon had completed the build-out of this wireless network for the Internet of Things, Amazon would be able to deliver a whole range of new services to its Amazon Prime members. For example, Prime members might get access to a ubiquitous wireless network enabling them to watch TV shows and movies wherever they are, regardless of whether or not that Prime member was a cable Internet or satellite Internet subscriber. And Amazon could start to offer wireless service for smartphones, enabling the company to poach away customers from the likes of AT&T or Sprint.

Amazon, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things

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Moreover, the same AI technology that Amazon is still perfecting with Alexa and the Amazon Echo could be distributed across the network, such that the artificial intelligence would flow from the edges (i.e. your home living room) to all the nodes comprising the network. In short, Amazon could put Alexa to work throughout the network and make this an AI-powered Internet of Things network much smarter than networks from competitors.

Rocket scientists and the Internet of Things

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What makes this concept for an Internet of Things network so exciting is that both Dish Network and Amazon seem to want it. Moreover, there seems to be a deep working relationship between Charlie Ergen of Dish Network and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. That’s because both Ergen and Bezos are thinking big – really big.

The two men have met at satellite conferences, where they have discussed a potential deal involving Blue Origin LLC (the rocket ship company owned by Bezos) and EchoStar Corp. (the satellite company that’s part of Dish Network). So imagine the truly out-of-this-world concept of networks connecting satellites and rocket ships to the Internet!

What happens next with the Internet of Things?

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All of this is exciting stuff, of course. But there’s no guarantee that such a network will actually get built. And both Dish Network and Amazon have their choice of other potential partners. For example, Dish Network has apparently been talking with a number of other wireless partners, including Sprint and T-Mobile.

In the business world, it all comes down to the choice of whether it’s better to “build” or “buy” a network.For the sake of the future of the Internet of Things, let’s hope that Dish Network and Amazon plan to build a brand-new wireless network dedicated to the Internet of Things completely from scratch. Amazon is clearly looking for the next big thing to offer its Amazon Prime customers, while Dish Network is looking for ways to get involved with wireless and diversify away from the satellite business. An Internet of Things network just seems to make the most sense.

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