Amazon updated its Echo virtual assistant/wireless speaker today to make it possible for users to control their smart home with just their voice. Now, a user can say “Alexa, turn on the coffee maker,” and their home will respond.
The functionality is made possible through an integration with Phillips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin’s WeMo connected switches. Users first set up their connected lightbulbs and switches through their respective app after connecting them to wi-fi, and then tell Echo “Alexa, discover my appliances.”
After a confirmation, the Echo should have full control over the switches and lightbulbs, which means that users can say things like “dim the living room lights to 20 percent” and “turn on the outdoor decorations” and get their home to respond.
By turning Echo into a hub for connected home devices, Amazon is entering into a market that has already been staked out by Apple and Google. Apple rolled out its HomeKit software development kit, which allows different home appliances to talk with Apple devices, while Google acquired Nest to further its own connected home ambitions.
The news comes just a day after Amazon ended its promotional pricing on Echo reservations for Prime customers. Previously, the company allowed members of its loyalty program to get a $100 discount on the price of an Echo, but is now charging everyone the same $199.