Home has been a big theme of Amazon this week.
The biggest story related to that theme, of course, is that Amazon itself has officially announced that its new HQ will not have one new home, but two. The rumors have been buzzing for over a week, but it is now official that Amazon will split its second headquarters evenly between Long Island City in New York and Arlington County’s Crystal City in Virginia. Both are expected to have as many as 25,000 employees.
Although that was the big headline, it’s clear that Amazon has had home top of mind lately — and in particular, how it can be a bigger part of household ecosystems.
The Echo Buttons Upgrade
Consumers with smart homes can already talk to Alexa via an Echo speaker (or other compatible device) and get her help with various home functions such as locking doors, flipping off lights and arming the security system.
But if that consumer isn’t able or doesn’t want to talk to Alexa, the Echo Button can now be used to silently control smart home routines.
They can be programmed to control multiple devices at once, so consumers can program a single button to flip on their lights and turn on their coffee pot in the morning, or a button to set all the smart locks in the house at once.
The buttons, according to Amazon, are controlled via the Alexa app. Once the customer has created a smart home routine within the app, all he or she has to do from there is pick which Echo Button will trigger it (Echo buttons are sold in two-pack for $20).
New Smarter Locks
A little over a year ago Amazon launched Amazon Key. Pitched to Amazon Prime members, the service was designed to facilitate unattended in-home deliveries.
“Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors,” said Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology, Amazon. “Now, Prime members can select in-home delivery and conveniently see their packages being delivered right from their mobile phones.”
The Amazon Key In-Home-Kit, included an Amazon Cloud Cam and a smart lock compatible with the service.
Initial reactions were mixed, as consumers weren’t quite sure they were comfortable with delivery people actually entering their homes unattended.
But Amazon pressed on with upgrades to the service, and by August was reporting somewhat better customer reception.
“Customers have told us that they love how easy it is to use Amazon Key for keyless entry and door monitoring from anywhere with the Amazon Key App,” Rohit Shrivastava, general manager, Amazon Key, said. “It’s a great service for busy families; you no longer have to worry about giving keys to service providers like house cleaners; instead, you can give them their own code right from your Amazon Key App. We’re excited that customers across the country can now take advantage of these convenient features.”
And it seems the upgrades are carrying on, as Amazon and lock company Schlage are currently rolling out the latest smart lock compatible with the Key service, the Connect Smart Deadbolt.
The new, upgraded lock can now be paired with the Amazon Cloud Cam, and accessible for locking and unlocking via Amazon Key app. The lock is also programed to send real-time notifications of activity to homeowners, and to trigger the recording of clips whenever deliveries are made or the door is otherwise touched.
“We love collaborating with companies that can help us deliver convenience and value to our customers. Bringing Schlage's experience in the smart home space will do just that,” said Rohit Shrivastava, GM of Amazon Key. “Giving Amazon Key customers the option of the enhanced Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt is a great start. Now even more customers can enjoy keyless entry, door monitoring, and optional in-home deliveries.”
But while Amazon loves collaborating to make houses smart and Alexa compatible piece by piece — at the door or with the buzzer — it seems it also has a bigger vision of making the entire house itself an Alexa-connected smart device.
Amazon’s Smart Homes
Among Amazon’s biggest Smart Home expansion is its recently-announced partnership with the TRI Pointe Group to put Amazon-provided smart home technology into its new home stock. TRI Pointe is a builder of single-family houses. Among features included in the Amazon-supported HomeSmart package are and Echo Home WiFi system; Leviton or Lutron Smart Switches; a Honeywell Lyric 2 Smart Thermostat or an Ecobee Smart Thermostat; and a Ring Video Doorbell Pro.
“This expanded smart home offering currently being implemented across TRI Pointe Group’s six homebuilder brands will enhance our HomeSmart suite of state-of-the-art home tech and automation features to harness the power of Internet-connected devices,” Doug Bauer, CEO of TRI Pointe Group noted, making the adjustment of lighting and temperature, music, and much more possible with voice control.
Going forward, HomeSmart supported by Amazon will roll out across the entire brand and is already featured in 25 model homes with more openings expected over the coming months. Customers who purchase an Amazon Smart Home model will receive in addition to the technology an appointment with an Amazon Expert to customize the smart home experience, as well as activation support.
The program in its earliest form has been popular so far, Bauer said, and the expectation is that the broader rollout will be a success, and a major sales driver.
“From busy families, we often hear about convenience and from homeowners who travel often, we hear about the peace of mind, through the ability of checking on their home while they’re away,” Bauer said. “Smart home features are a key differentiator between other new homes and matches what we find most buyers are looking for.”
Amazon may be excited to move into its new home in Northern Virginia and Queens. But it might be even more excited to help Alexa move into lots of new homes — in buttons, in locks and in living rooms all over the nation.