Amazon introduced the Dash Button this week in a move that brings the Internet of Things to replenishment services. The physical button attaches to a household surface and allows a user to reorder consumable goods (e.g., laundry detergent, paper towels, trash bags) from Amazon with a single push of the button. While the button provides physical ease, the true magic of Amazon's new offering stems from the underlying API-driven platform that enables the Dash Button: Amazon's Dash Replenishment Service (DRS).
A REST API and HTML containers allow connected devices to automatically order goods from Amazon when supplies run low. While the Dash Button uses the DRS infrastructure, manufacturers can directly integrate the API into devices, bypassing the need for the Dash Button. For instance, the Brita filtered water pitcher measures the amount of water passed through its filter. When the filter's life reaches expiration, an API call made through DRS places an order for a new filter. Amazon describes a number of applications for similar integrations, including printers that automatically order new toner and pet food dispensers that know when to order new food.
While Amazon has signed up a number of partners during the beta period (e.g., Whirlpool, Brita, Quirky, Brother), the company encourages makers and manufacturers of all sizes to join the beta. Whether Dash Button or API integration makes more sense for an application, Amazon anticipates DRS to drive a new generation of smart devices and automated ordering.
For those uncomfortable with a household appliance placing orders on behalf of its owner, built-in checks and balances exist. For instance, a push of the Dash Button sends an order alert to a user's phone. The user can cancel the order if desired; however, if the user takes no action, the order proceeds.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has expressed his desire that consumers buy "everything" from Amazon. In attempts to make that goal a reality, Amazon has developed a number of API-driven strategies (e.g., one-click ordering, Amazon Payments); however, DRS takes vendor lock-in and ease of purchase to an entirely new level. Should DRS take hold, consumers wouldn't simply rely on Amazon as a single vendor for all shopping needs; consumers would rely on Amazon for the very decision to make a purchase.