If Alexa is your smart home assistant, you’re probably familiar with using Alexa Skills. These voice-activated functions are similar to apps you’d find in the App Store. As a smart home aficionado, I wanted to learn if there was a cost involved to create my own Alexa Skills.
How Much Does it Cost to Create an Alexa Skill? If you’re looking to develop an Alexa Skill, you can do it for free. However, in order to host the Skill (either privately or through Amazon’s cloud-based web service), payment is required.
Amazon also offers a $100 AWS promotional credit towards developers who are publishing an Alexa Skill. With this in mind, I wanted to find out what was involved in developing these Skills, and what the pricing structure looked like.
Alexa Skills; A Quick Guide
With the associated Alexa App, users have access to thousands of different Skills. Alexa Skills are similar to smartphone apps but are stored in a cloud-based service, rather than being downloaded directly to your smart device.
Alexa Skills are voice-driven commands capable of performing complex functions. They can be programmed to activate a wide variety of tasks, from workouts, to music, and even providing recipes. For example:
- “Alexa, Good Night” will enable the associated “Good Night” skill.
- “Alexa, turn on the lights.”
- “Alexa, ask the weather channel if it’s going to rain today.”
Amazon now offers the ability for developers to create their own skills, rather than only having access to what is available in the Alexa app. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that determine pricing tiers for creating Alexa Skills.
What Factors Determine the Prices for Publishing?
The determining factor of the pricing structure for creating Skills depends primarily on their complexity.
DigitalCommerce360.com provides a great example of this, stating:
“Alexa, ask 1-800-Flowers to order Tracy flowers,” is one request and “A dozen reds roses, please,” is another request and “Deliver them on Friday, March 24” is yet another, for a total of three requests from that one skill.
In other words, the more complicated the request being processed (and therefore, more cloud services required), the more it will cost to publish the Skill.
How Do You Create Alexa Skills?
Amazon makes the process of creating custom Alexa Skills as straightforward as possible. The fact that they offer $100 monthly promotional credits for their AWS also helps address concerns on cost.
To get started making an Alexa Skill, you first need to decide which type of Skill you would like to create. According to Amazon’s developer site:
The functionality you want to implement determines how your skill integrates with the Alexa service and what you need to build.
Amazon even provides its own developer kit (“Alexa Skills Kit”) to get you started with the process, and a “Quick Start Template” to help guide you along the way.
Types of Skills
Here’s a table that shows the different type of skill functions available to create, as well as their associated skill type:
|Skill Function||Skill Type|
|General Request Skills||Custom Skill|
|Skills to Control Smart Home Functions||Smart Home Skill API|
|Media Control Skills||Video Skill API|
|News Flash/Briefing Skills||Flash Briefing Skill API|
|Audio Control Skills||Music Skill API|
Data Courtesy of developer.amazon.com.
Can Anyone Become a Skill Developer?
Now that we know a little bit more about what types of skills developers can create, you may be wondering, can just anyone do this? The main requirement for getting started is to create an Amazon Developer account. This will provide access to all of the developer kits to help you with your custom Alexa Skill.
Amazon even offers accessible training documentation, including an optional beginner’s training course. If you’re not a skilled developer, or familiar with coding, there’s an option to use a blueprint for creating a Skill. With this blueprint, creating a customized skill is just a matter of filling out specified fields, geared at providing you with a solution.
It’s worth noting that the process may vary depending on the type and complexity of the Alexa Skill you are creating.
Tips for Installing Alexa Skills
Whether you’re getting into developing, or you want to see what other Skills are available already, it may be challenging to find what you’re looking for. Here are some steps for finding and installing Alexa Skills:
Using your Existing Alexa Assistant
- Ask Alexa to find a particular skill.
- Alternatively, you could ask Alexa to “enable” a specific Skill (providing you know the name of the Skill).
A benefit of using the Alexa App directly is that you can check out reviews and descriptions of the Skill before enabling it on your system.
- Download and install the Alexa app on your smart device.
- In the menu section, select “Skills & Games.”
- Once you’ve located the Skill you would like to use, select it, and tap “Enable To Use.”
Once you have your Alexa Skill enabled, it’s ready to be activated via voice command on your smart home device.