Amazon Echo Gets Zigbee Upgrade, Eyes on Bigger Goal
Amazon released a whole slew of new items today, which is being covered in a little more detail on our sister site Dealerscope, but of all the upgrades, one really stands out. The new Echo Plus has a Zigbee antennae and that's exciting news on a few different levels.
First and foremost, the elephant in the room. Recently, Amazon made a second appearance at CEDIA, introducing their plans to integrate CEDIA members deep into their network, Alexa into AV solutions. The bottom line was summed up as the opportunity to have Amazon as an ally is immeasurable, but also dangerous based on a rap sheet of cannibalizing markets.
Naturally, that should make the Echo Plus another scary milestone in world domination, right? Maybe, but probably not. The Echo Plus looks to simplify a few extra steps - e.g. bridging networks together, middleman smart home hubs - by allowing Alexa to do all the heavy lifting. In the demo, Amazon's senior vice president of devices Dave Limp asked the Echo Plus to "discover devices" around a kitchen. Alexa came to life, connecting multiple wireless protocols, eventually connecting a Zigbee smart light bulb.
It's brilliant. No apps or skills needed for the connected light as the out-of-the-box solution connected to the cloud and synchronized nearby devices. However, the Echo Plus is still limited to devices nearby, but solutions like Valet will still be useful as it can send commands to multiple zones.
There is a bigger play at hand here, in the form of education. The smartest thing Amazon can do is show the value of a connected home. Although changed to 'routines,' Amazon has begun giving scene setting to the mass market. Alexa can confidently and quickly rope all nearby connected devices and start setting up routines for the mass market. It's a play that not only undermines the work of other mass market competition (Apple, Google) but is also taking a run at some of the basic functions of the industry heavyweights (Crestron, Savant, Control4.)
The connected home market is moving from early adoption to the more pragmatic early majority phase. Amazon is helping that movement with their Echo Plus by not only educating the value of a Smart Home hub but also adding terms like scene setting and Zigbee to the everyday vernacular.