Canadian developers no longer have to use American Amazon accounts to build an Alexa Skill or integrate Alexa into their smart home hardware.
Following yesterday’s announcement that it is bringing Alexa and several of its Echo devices to Canada, Amazon is now expanding its Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service to developers in the Great White North too. It’s not that lack of official support for these developer tools slowed down keen Canadian programmers. For example, Toronto-based smart thermostat maker Ecobee has been selling its ecobee4 device with Alexa integration for months in the U.S. But now developers will be able to create voice-first experiences on Alexa specifically for the Canadian geography.
That means Alexa Voice developers can link users to their Amazon.ca accounts, speak Canadian English, and provide access to Skills that are restricted to the Canadian marketplace. The Skills-building remains almost identical to the experience of using the U.S. portal. But developers now have the option to geo-restrict Skills to the Canadian region, and Amazon is officially offering support for all third-party Skills to work in the Canadian region. As in the U.S., Amazon is offering some free capacity on its Amazon Web Services hosting for Skills developers.
Amazon explains its localization neatly in this graphic:
According to Amazon’s region chart, Canada’s Alexa support is still lacking in a couple of areas when compared to the U.S. Music support only includes TuneIn and iHeartRadio, and not Amazon Music, Pandora, or SiriusXM. (Though Prime Music was announced for Canada on Wednesday, so this may change soon.). Also, Audible’s audio books service is not available via Alexa despite recently making a push into Candian content.
Amazon is listing several Canadian brands that have built third-party skills already:
- TD Bank allows Canadians to ask about information for products and services, branch locations, and foreign exchange rates.
- Telus allows its customers to make calls through their mobile phone, check billing information, data usage, and add new data or travel options to their account.
- The Weather Network offers local weather updates and receive alerts and warnings.
Amazon Cash also available in Canada
Alexa wasn’t the only service that Amazon launched to the Canadian market this week. It also brought Amazon Cash to the country, allowing Amazon users to add cash to their Amazon.ca balance from any Canada Post retail location. This allows individuals without banking cards or credit cards to make purchases from the e-commerce giant.
Amazon partnered with Payment Source, which offers an alternative payment service in Canada, to introduce Amazon Cash. Its Loadhub technology integrates with Canada Post’s point-of-sale system and uses Quick Response (QR) barcode technology. The customer displays the barcode, a Canada Post employee scans it, and cash handed over by the customer is added to the associated account.