The future of the voice-controlled house is not to put Echo Dots or Google Home Minis in your entire home, but to integrate voice aids in the appliances and electronic devices you already need. That means placing Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, or whatever comes next in your thermostat, oven, microwave, TV or even a light switch.
The company that is at the forefront of this close integration with its home is Ecobee, which has already integrated a voice-activated voice control system for Alexa into its flagship thermostat, which provides another voice access point wherever it is needed. Your thermostat is installed. Now Ecobee is branching out into light switches, and its new Switch + also includes a full smart speaker and a voice control access point. The Switch + sells for $ 99.99 and is available for pre-order starting today, with availability in the store from March 26.
Like the Ecobee4 thermostat, which combines a smart thermostat connected to Alexa, the Switch + combines a smart light switch connected to the Internet that can be controlled with an application with a full Alexa speaker. Like an Amazon Echo speaker, you can talk to the Switch + and receive a response to your responses, confirm your request, inform you about the weather, read the headlines, play music or anything else that Alexa is capable of doing. in the present moment.
The Switch + will allow you to control any lighting device controlled by the fool switch that replaces it. (Installation note: it is very easy to install the Switch + if you have ever installed a power outlet or a light switch, but it requires a neutral cable, which old houses may not have). You can turn the lights on or off through the Ecobee application, or whenever you detect movement in the room. It has intelligent functions such as an integrated night light, automatic shutdown after 15 minutes without movement, automatic on and off at dusk and dawn when used with external lighting and ambient light detection to turn on only when the room is dark enough to guarantee light.
There is also a basic button on the front to manually turn the lights on or off from the switch itself. Unfortunately, it does not allow for the dimming of the lights, which seems obvious is what I would like for a $ 100 light switch. (Ecobee says you can use smart bulbs in the devices that the Switch + controls to get the attenuation characteristics , but that somehow frustrate the purpose of putting intelligence on the wall switch.) The + switch can be controlled by voice by Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri through its HomeKit support. It also integrates with SmartThings and IFTTT for smarter integration in the smart home.
Those are all fairly common features for connected light switches, which can be easily found for less than $ 50 each, so what sets Switch + apart is its smart speaker. Like the Echo Dot, the Switch + has microphones and a speaker built into it, so you can bark at "Alexa" from the other side of the room to wake him up and issue a command. The speaker is surprisingly noisy for its size, and while it is quite terrible to listen to music, it is clear and crisp for Alexa's responses or for listening to the content of the spoken word. An LED light glows blue when Alexa is listening or responding to a command, and then lights up red when its microphones are off (which can be done through a button on the top of the switch).
Switch + supports Alexa functions such as Echo Spatial Perception (ESP), allowing you to work in rooms or areas that have multiple Alexa speakers without shooting all at once. But like many other third-party Alexa devices, it does not support calls or Alexa messages. It is also not compatible with Spotify, although you can use it to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks from Amazon Music, Audible, Pandora and others.
Ecobee says other features, such as a vacation mode to automatically randomize lights when you're not at home, and the temperature sensing support that integrates with Smart Ecobee thermostats are scheduled for release later this summer. It is possible that other features can be added to the Switch + through software updates, since Ecobee has significantly improved the feature set and performance of the Ecobee4 parameter since its launch.
The Switch + is an interesting product and a harbinger of what will come when all our powered devices also include an intelligent assistant ready to listen to our commands. If you are considering placing an Echo Dot in a room that already has a wall switch, and do not mind not being able to dim your lights, Switch + is a compelling alternative that does not require you to give up an outlet. The Switch + is not perfect, but using it makes it seem that the truly connected home is not far away.
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