Control & Automation

Key Home Automation Takeaways from Amazon Echo Plus & New Alexa Services

Amazon's new home-automation play includes ZigBee-enabled Echo Plus (not Z-Wave?) and Alexa services such as Routines, enabling macros to be activated by voice control or time and day.

Key Home Automation Takeaways from Amazon Echo Plus & New Alexa Services
Echo Pulse is Amazon's first true smart-home hub, featuring ZigBee technology for direct integration with third-party ZigBee devices including a limited roster of lights, plugs, switches and door locks. New Alexa services include 'Routines' that let users create macros and activate them via voice or date/time.

Julie Jacobson · September 29, 2017
PRESS RELEASES

New Amazon Echo Products

 

Amazon Echo, 2nd Generation

$100, ships in October

New design

With an all-new compact design, Echo fits easily into any room in your home while delivering next generation far-field performance and improved room-filling sound. Pick from a variety of shell colors and finishes to fit into your home’s décor—choices include charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, oak veneer, walnut veneer, and silver.

Immersive sound

Echo combines an all-new speaker architecture, a dedicated tweeter, a 2.5” down-firing woofer, and Dolby processing to deliver crisp vocals and dynamic bass throughout the room—all in a smaller design and at an even more affordable price. Alexa can play music from leading services like Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more.

Second generation far-field technology

The new Echo uses Amazon’s second generation far-field technology, which features better wake word processing, improved beamforming technology, and enhanced noise cancellation. The Echo far-field technology works to detect the wake word from across the room even in the noisiest parts of your home.


Echo Plus, the Smart Home Hub

$150, ships in October with one Philips Hue bulb, while supplies last

With its built-in smart home hub, Echo Plus makes connecting to compatible smart home devices easy. Just say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and Echo Plus will automatically discover and set up compatible lights, locks, plugs, switches, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps. This simple set-up works with a variety of ZigBee products from leading brands such as Philips Hue, GE, Kwikset, and more. To help get your smart home started, Amazon customers will receive a Philips Hue smart lightbulb with the purchase of an Echo Plus while supplies last.

More powerful audio and better performance

Echo Plus has enhanced 360-degree omni-directional audio, with Dolby processing, to provide deeper bass and crisper high notes for better audio clarity. You can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more. With Amazon Music, you can search for music by lyrics, time-period, or let Alexa pick the music for you. Like the new Echo, Echo Plus features second generation far-field technology for even better performance.


$130, ships in December

Echo Spot delivers everything you love about Alexa with a smaller design and the added convenience of a circular screen so that Alexa can show you things. 

“Echo Spot combines the popular small design of Echo Dot, the display ofEcho Show, and the features you love about Alexa into an all-new, stylish and compact device,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “See the weather, watch video news briefings, glance at your alarm clock, check on your kids, and more—we think customers will find lots of places for Echo Spot in their homes.”

Designed for any room, with the added convenience of a screen

Echo Spot fits easily into any room of your home. The size and viewing angle of the screen make Echo Spot ideal for use on a nightstand or desk as a smart alarm clock that can also turn your lights on and off, watch a video flash briefing, show your commute time, get the weather, or show your calendar. Or use Echo Spot in the kitchen to easily set and view timers, call friends and family, see shopping and to do lists, and more.

New microphone array with second generation far-field technology

Echo Spot features second generation far-field technology with four microphones, acoustic beam-forming technology, and enhanced noise cancellation so it can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. If you have more than one Echo, Alexa responds intelligently from the Echo you’re closest to with ESP (Echo Spatial Perception).

Front-facing camera and Alexa calling help you stay connected—call anyone hands free

Put an Echo Spot in each room so you can drop in on the kitchen to ask when dinner will be ready, or drop in on the family room to see how homework is going. Just like Echo Show, you can also use Echo Spot to start a voice or video call, or send a message—simply say, “Alexa, call dad,” or “Alexa, send a message to Mary.”

Built-in speaker, plus Bluetooth and audio-out to connect to your existing speaker systems

Alexa can talk to you and play music directly on Echo Spot through the built-in 2W speaker. Echo Spot can directly connect to speakers through Bluetooth or using a 3.5mm stereo cable, enabling you to add Alexa to your home entertainment system. Then, use just your voice to control Amazon Music, Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more. Plus, with the new multi-room music feature, you can play your favorites throughout your home, with synchronized music across all of your Echo devices.

Easily control your smart home

Echo Spot integrates all of the smart home capabilities that customers love about Alexa—turn on the lights, view your live camera feed from the nursery, set up Routines, control the temperature, lock your doors with your voice when you’re heading to bed, and more.


Echo Buttons

Echo Buttons are new devices that deliver ways for customers to play games with friends and family using Alexa. The buttons illuminate and can be pressed to trigger a variety of multiplayer and interactive game experiences. There will be a number of new Echo Button-compatible skills available this holiday season including Trivial Pursuit from Hasbro, Sounds Fun with Mike Epps, Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns, Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers, Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey from Ground Control, as well as Beat the Intro from Musicplode. Echo Buttons will come in a two-pack, priced at $19.99, and will arrive in time for the holidays in the US, UK, and Germany. Echo Buttons are the first of many Alexa Gadgets, a new collection of accessories that enable fun and playful Alexa experiences. Sign up at https://www.amazon.com/AlexaGadgets to receive notifications and updates when Echo Buttons are available for purchase.


Echo Connect

$35, available “later this year”

Four months ago, Amazon introduced Alexa calling and messaging, and millions of customers have started using the feature. Now, Amazon is expanding this feature to include support for free outbound calling to phone numbers within the United StatesCanada, and Mexico. Just say “Alexa, call Mary’s mobile,” and Alexa will call Mary’s mobile phone from your smartphone’s contact list. Alexa can also dial phone numbers that you speak to her so that you can reach people or businesses that aren’t in your contacts. Calls to 911 are not supported. This feature is available for all Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show customers starting today in the US.

Amazon also introduced Echo Connect, a new Alexa accessory that turns your Echo into a high quality, hands-free speakerphone for your home phone line. Echo Connect works with your existing home phone service – either landline or VoIP. Without touching a single button, ask Alexa to call anybody from your contact list – when you call, they will see your home phone number as the caller ID. When someone you know calls your home phone, Alexa will announce their name from your contacts list—just ask Alexa to answer to start the conversation.

Echo Connect is easy to set up—simply connect it to your home Wi-Fi network and home phone jack or VoIP adapter, and use the Alexa app on your mobile phone to set up Echo Connect. Echo Connect is just $34.99 and will be available later this year.


Amazon Alexa - New Features

Alexa Routines

Routines allow you to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command of your choice. For example, say, “Alexa, good night,” and Alexa will turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create Routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a Routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6 a.m. every weekday and at 9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Routines are compatible with popular Works with Amazon Alexa lights, plugs, switches, and door locks from leading brands like TP Link, Philips Hue, Wemo, and August, and will be available for all Alexa devices including the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.

Alexa smart home groups

You no longer need to remember the specific name of a smart device or group of smart devices to control them. Now you can place your Echo and smart devices into smart home groups, which enables Alexa to act intelligently on your request, making your interactions with your smart home more natural and effortless. For example, when you walk into the kitchen, you can now say to your Echo “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”

This feature will be available on the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at jjacobson@ehpub.com

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Whole House Control · News · Products · Echo · IoT · Voice Control · ZigBee · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Blefadts on October 6, 2017

Not surprised they did not choose zwave, lots of rumors, but I believe you will see more companies looking at different rf protocols other than zwave

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 3, 2017

I love you, Antonio. Am I allowed to say that? It’s always frustrating when we provide so much more extensive coverage than everyone else, and then everyone talks about the stories on Verge and CNET. Well, we’ll keep plugging away. Important for CE Pro to understand these nuances. Thank you.

Posted by antoniohardeman on October 2, 2017

Julie I’m so glad that we can turn to you and CE Pro for connected home news.  I say this because I read the media that were at the Amazon event and no one thought to follow up on the question of why not include the Z-wave chip. 

Also, none of the media folks that were at the Amazon event decided to follow up on what I think is the most important new feature Amazon introduced to the Echo; smart home groups.  I saw one blurb on it somewhere, but no one got the information that you were able to get.  I’m confused as to how the smart-home groups would work when there are multiple Echos within close proximity of each other. 

A perfect example would a home that has a open floor plan where the family room and kitchen are open to each other.  In that case you could have a Echo in the family room and one in the kitchen.  In such a situation, how would either Echo now which lights you’re referring to.  And which Echo will respond if you’re standing in between each room.

And to your point, if you assign an Echo to say the family room lighting group, does that mean that I can’t use the family room Echo to turn on other lighting groups throughout the house?  I’m so confused.

The routines Amazon introduced are a good start but what the end user can do appears to be quite limited at the moment.  I’d be curious to see how and if Amazon will expand the routines that can be done.

Posted by antoniohardeman on October 2, 2017

Julie I’m so glad that we can turn to you and CE Pro for connected home news.  I say this because I read the media that were at the Amazon event and no one thought to follow up on the question of why not include the Z-wave chip. 

Also, none of the media folks that were at the Amazon event decided to follow up on what I think is the most important new feature Amazon introduced to the Echo; smart home groups.  I saw one blurb on it somewhere, but no one got the information that you were able to get.  I’m confused as to how the smart-home groups would work when there are multiple Echos within close proximity of each other. 

A perfect example would a home that has a open floor plan where the family room and kitchen are open to each other.  In that case you could have a Echo in the family room and one in the kitchen.  In such a situation, how would either Echo now which lights you’re referring to.  And which Echo will respond if you’re standing in between each room.

And to your point, if you assign an Echo to say the family room lighting group, does that mean that I can’t use the family room Echo to turn on other lighting groups throughout the house?  I’m so confused.

The routines Amazon introduced are a good start but what the end user can do appears to be quite limited at the moment.  I’d be curious to see how and if Amazon will expand the routines that can be done.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on October 3, 2017

I love you, Antonio. Am I allowed to say that? It’s always frustrating when we provide so much more extensive coverage than everyone else, and then everyone talks about the stories on Verge and CNET. Well, we’ll keep plugging away. Important for CE Pro to understand these nuances. Thank you.

Posted by Blefadts on October 6, 2017

Not surprised they did not choose zwave, lots of rumors, but I believe you will see more companies looking at different rf protocols other than zwave