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Amazon Alexa's next home could be your apartment complex

The new Alexa for Residential program lets property managers bring the voice assistant to their rental units.

The Echo Dot with a clock.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon has brought Alexa to homes, hotels and college dorms. It's next stop is apartment rentals.

On Thursday, the online retailer revealed its new Alexa for Residential program, which will make it easier for landlords and property managers to add dozens of Amazon's voice assistant and Alexa-powered smart home devices into their rental units.

Amazon's smart speakers will be usable without any set up for new renters once they move in, and these devices can be used for self-guided tours for prospective renters, providing general information like square footage and monthly rent. Tenants will be able to link their Amazon accounts so they can use all of Alexa's features, such as calling friends or playing your Spotify. Once a renter moves out, property managers will be able to reset these speakers while keeping the connections to smart-home features in place.

"The resident has to do zero setup," said Liron Torres, Amazon Alexa's head of smart properties. "From the moment they walk in, they can use Alexa and smart-home devices."

The new program adds to Amazon's work to make its voice assistant a default for many places, almost like a utility such as the lights or plumbing. The homebuilder Lennar in 2018 said it was adding Alexa and smart locks into all its new builds. Amazon has also put together partnerships to bring Alexa to hotel rooms and college dorms. It also introduced plans to bring Alexa into office settings but hasn't offered more details on those efforts.

This work should help Amazon make Alexa a must-have for more people and prevent rivals like Google Assistant and Apple's Siri from stealing away its customers.

While smart-home devices have become enormously popular for millions of people, adding them into rental properties can create problems. For example, a judge last year ordered landlords of a New York apartment building to hand over physical keys to tenants who don't want to use the Latch smart locks installed in the building.

Amazon said privacy is an important element of the new program, saying property managers and their smart-home partners can't access any customer data. As defaults, voice recordings are automatically deleted daily and those recordings won't be accessible to Alexa's human reviewers. Renters who link their accounts will have full access to Alexa's privacy controls. They can unlink their accounts whenever they want.

To bring Alexa to more rentals, Amazon will be teaming up with three companies that add smart tech into buildings: IOTAS, Stratis IoT and Sentient Property Services. Amazon said it's opening the program to more potential partners starting Thursday.

These companies will bring the new service starting in the fall to three apartment complexes: Parq on Speer in Denver; Reef at Winkler in Fort Myers, Florida; and The James in Annapolis, Maryland.