Amazon unloaded an entire van of products at a private event today. Here are some of the many, many smart home products that have been announced.
Lookout nest! Amazon is stepping into the realm of Google (and its longtime thermostat partner, Ecobee) with the Amazon Smart Thermostat. Nest thermostats are a circle, so this thing is a square, with the usual touch controls on the front and an app (the Alexa app) for remote control and usage tracking. “Thermostat Hunches” allows Alexa to control the thermostat based on your location, and of course there are Alexa voice commands. Amazon partnered with Honeywell spin-off company Resideo to develop the thermostat, saying the device is “made with Honeywell Home Thermostat Technology”. Between Amazon’s Echo smarts and Honeywell’s thermostat experience, there’s plenty of expertise here.
The unit costs $59.99 and for $16 more you can get a bundle that includes a C-Wire power adapter, which you may need if your existing thermostat wiring isn’t supplying enough power. That’s significantly cheaper than Nest, whose cheapest thermostat is $129.99. Amazon is also undercutting its biggest thermostat partner, Ecobee, which provides a thermostat with an entire Alexa speaker and microphone integrated into it, the $229.99 Ecobee 4. This is just a thermostat, but wow, it’s cheap.
Some cameras, including that drone indoor camera
Next: cameras. Amazon’s crazy indoor flying drone camera — the ambiguous name “Ring Always Home Cam” — is now on sale in the US. This was announced a full year ago, but is now available “by invitation only” for $249.99. This is a “Day 1 Edition” (read: a beta product). So Amazon won’t let just anyone buy it. On the product page you can request an invitation to give Amazon money.
Like any other Ring camera, you can access the camera feed remotely via the Ring app. You get a 1440×1440 video feed that you can zoom in on. You can train the drone with modified flight paths by just holding it in the air and walking around the house. There will probably also be manual remotes, but I have a feeling these will be very limited.
It sounds like there isn’t much going on in the navigation stack. Amazon notes that “if Always Home Cam encounters an unexpected obstacle, it pauses and returns to the charging dock.” The drone is also limited to a single story of the house. If you have multiple stories, Amazon recommends multiple drones.
The drone lives in a small dock when it’s not spinning, and Amazon says it only records video when it’s flying. The dock also covers the camera, so it can’t record much while it’s not flying, even if it wanted to. It has a flight time of five minutes before it needs charging, and it should dock itself automatically when you’re done.
This is a quadcopter, so like any other quadcopter it will be a little quieter than a flying chainsaw, but not by much. The announcement video didn’t include a sound recording of the drone, but Amazon’s product page has a video detailing how much noise this thing will make. Ring president Leila Rouhi explained to the BBC last year that not only does the quadcopter cover the camera while it’s docked, it’s also “made to be loud, so it’s really privacy you can hear.”
If you have pets, Amazon admits that they “take time to adjust to the sound and movement of Always Home Cam.” If your dog is still afraid of the vacuum cleaner, imagine that vacuum cleaner magically came to life when you weren’t home and started flying around the room.
In other camera news, there is also a doorbell: the Blink Doorbell. For $49.99, this doorbell camera does 30fps, 1080p video with IR night vision, and two-way audio. It runs on 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, and if you don’t want to power it with a doorbell wire, it can hold two AA batteries. Like all Blink cameras, this one is meant to be simple, inexpensive, and compatible with the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. There are some local storage options through the Blink Sync Module 2, or you can pay a monthly fee for cloud storage.
There are also two accessories for the Blink Outdoor camera: a $39.99 Floodlight mount (it adds a motion sensor) and two LEDs (they add 700 lumens of power and motion-activated recording). There’s also a $129.98 solar panel mount for the Blink Outdoor camera, so you don’t have to rely on the usual AAs anymore. The solar mount has a single “pre-installed” 18650 battery. Whether the battery is user-replaceable is unclear, and how long the battery will last is equally vague.
The Ring + eero security system
One more product before we go: the Ring Alarm Pro. This is a sequel to last year’s Ring Alarm home security system. The main difference is that the Alarm Pro combines two acquisitions from Amazon: a Ring alarm system and an eero Wi-Fi 6 mesh router. This will wirelessly connect your home to the Internet and protect it, all in one big box. The starter kit costs $299.99 and provides eight items: one Alarm Pro base station, one keypad, four contact sensors, one motion detector, and one alarm range extender.
The base station seems to be the only other item from last year, with the only new addition being the eero Wi-Fi 6 router functionality. It is fully compatible with the eero mesh system, so just add another mesh point if you need one. The other widgets still use Z-Wave for low power connectivity. If you have last year’s version of Ring Alarm and want to upgrade to the Wi-Fi version, that will cost $249 for the base station only. The new Alarm Pro will be released on November 3.
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Listing image by Amazon