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Amazon Stakes Claim to Smart-Appliance Consumables

Have you ever run out of coffee pods for your Keurig coffee machine? That’s the dilemma of a woman in desperate need of a caffeine fix who is featured in a new video from Amazon, which suggests a solution: the Amazon Dash Button. But it’s much more than that – the buttons are really a bridge to the emerging world of connected devices.

The new compact gadget helps consumers reorder household goods with the press of wifi-connected buttons strategically placed all over their homes, from the laundry room (for detergent), to the kitchen (for coffee and snacks).

The idea of pushing a button to get what you want satisfies the urge for instant gratification. But the concept of Amazon’s Dash Button was so unusual that some people wondered if it was an early April Fool’s joke.

In reality, it’s a byproduct of Amazon’s attempt to get in front of the “Internet of Things” movement, where manufacturers are creating smart appliances like refrigerators that can replenish groceries by communicating with delivery services when they sense consumers are running low.

Amazon explains:

Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) enables connected devices to order physical goods from Amazon when supplies are running low – like a coffee maker that orders more coffee beans. By using DRS, device makers are able to leverage Amazon’s authentication and payment systems, customer service, and fulfillment network – giving their customers access to Amazon’s low prices, great selection, and reliable delivery.

Amazon is seeking developers who wish to work with DSR – and you don’t have to be a large manufacturer – the company even welcomes hobbyists.

The first devices using DRS will be available starting this fall from Whirlpool, Brita, Quirky, Brother.

Even if Amazon doesn’t sell the consumable that goes with someone’s device, manufacturers can still participate by selling the consumable items themselves on Amazon using Fulfillment by Amazon. “You can then integrate DRS with your connected device to reorder those consumables,” Amazon explains to developers.

Device makers can start using DRS with as few as 10 lines of code, and device makers can place orders on behalf of their customers without having to manage addresses, payment instruments, or billing systems.

“For example, an automatic pet food dispenser made with built-in sensors can measure the amount of pet food remaining in its container and place an order before running out.”

Amazon is well poised to service the needs of consumers with its distribution network and its relationships with manufacturers of consumer packaged goods, such as the one with Procter & Gamble described in this Wall Street Journal article.

In the meantime, consumers without smart appliances can whet their appetites with the Dash Buttons. Amazon hasn’t yet announced the new devices, but it’s sending a limited-time offer to a subset of Amazon Prime members who can request up to three Dash Buttons, “while supplies last.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.