Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has integrated itself to work with a variety of smart home devices, but up until now, you needed to buy an Amazon Echo or an Echo Dot to enable those interactions on a thermostat.
The ecobee4 smart thermostat is the first device to have Alexa built in.
The new thermostat also answers other questions that Amazon Echo can handle like reading the news, order pizza, play music or request an Uber and more.
The Ecobee4 looks similar to the Ecobee3. Its face is a rounded black square with a smartphone-sized touch screen in the middle. The biggest noticeable difference is a small blue LED bar along the top, which lights up when Alexa is activated.
The interface is largely the same, with the current temperature displayed prominently and a slider along the right to adjust the heat or cooling. A small microphone icon in the lower right lets you activate Alexa manually.
The small speaker in the back of the latest ecobee is similar to the speaker on the Echo Dot. It would be fine for asking short questions of Alexa, but you probably wouldn’t want to use it to play music. Like the Dot 2, you can pair the Ecobee4 with your Bluetooth speaker for better sound.
While the newer Ecobee has movement sensors to detect if anyone is home, it does not have the geofencing feature found in other smart thermostats that would sense when you’re within a certain radius of your house and turn the thermostat on or off automatically
Most likely your current thermostat is located in a hallway or some other place where you don’t spend a lot of time. Unless your thermostat is centrally located in an Open concept living area, having Alexa on the thermostat may not be very useful.
The earlier generations of the ecobee required sighted assistance to initially setup, but if you have the original ecobee app then you can make the necessary adjustments to your HVAC system using VoiceOver. Unfortunately the currant version is virtually unusable for VoiceOver users without jester wizardry. If ecobee expects to maintain itself as an industry leader in this market, than they will have to incorporate a universally designed approach for CBT to officially recommend them.
The new Ecobee4 will hit stores and deliver to customers on May 15. Ecobee has also discounted its previous generation hardware which is still available for $189.99 currently. Ecobee3 Lite which ships without room sensors is also available for $169.
If you already have an Echo, then it might be worth your wile to buy an earlier generation ecobee that is compatible with the Alexa skill from ecobee enabling you to bypass any inaccessible hardware interface while changing the temperature.
From the ecobee4 press release:
“We are committed to building technology that makes customers’ lives simpler and better. Technology that allows our customers to focus on the things that matter – their families and moments they share. The voice-enabled ecobee4 smart thermostat and smart light switch bring that promise to life,” said ecobee President and CEO Stuart Lombard. “More than just individual products, ecobee4 and the smart light switch work together to provide better comfort and savings, while allowing customers to ask for almost anything from anywhere in their home.”
With a built-in speaker and microphone, ecobee4 can be controlled through its sleek touch-screen, a smart device or voice. Alexa voice service allows customers to simply ask their ecobee4 to adjust the temperature of the home, in addition to the growing list of Alexa skills such as setting a timer, helping plan your commute or playing the news. Through far-field voice recognition, ecobee4 will conveniently respond to voice commands from anywhere in the room. ecobee4 is also compatible with the company’s signature room sensor technology, which measures occupancy and temperature to deliver comfort when the customer is home and energy savings when they’re away.
“Our vision is to bring Alexa to customers wherever they are, on-the-go, and in any room of their smart home. ecobee’s smart thermostats and switches with Alexa will help realize this vision for customers,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP Amazon Alexa. “We think the experience of simply asking Alexa to raise or lower the temperature in a room, or interacting with 12,000-plus other skills available on Alexa, will be delightful for customers.”
“Today’s announcement is our first step towards delivering a whole-home-voice experience for customers, and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Lombard. “In our 10th year as a company, we are still committed to purpose-driven innovation that re-imagines the home – now with the ecobee4 and later this year with the smart light switch. These innovations give customers the ability to be more comfortable, have more control and save money – all while doing right by our planet, something we’re incredibly proud of.”
ecobee4 will be available for pre-order starting May 3, 2017 and in stores on May 15, 2017. The smart light switch is expected later this year.