I’ve been building a smart home around Alexa for many years. While some have been asking whether Matter matters, watching Apple trying to get HomeKit off the ground, and every smart home brand trying to diversify and become a whole-home solution, Alexa has been building bridges and solving problems to make the modern smart home work.
The use of Skills in Alexa – and the scale of adoption for devices like Echo Dot – means that manufacturers across the board have moved to make themselves compatible with Amazon’s platform. None of this will be news to you, because building an Alexa smart home is something that a lot of people have done. But there’s always been something missing – and that’s a proper hub.
The Echo Hub is the missing piece of Alexa’s puzzle. While Alexa has stitched together smart home devices to make everything work – without even a mention of Thread – the Echo Hub now provides the solution to complete this system. It addresses the weak user interface for the smart home that’s been presented by Echo Show, while it also packs in the smarts to directly setup and control some of those devices too, if that’s what you want it to do.
The Echo Hub is compatible with basically everything – Matter, Thread, Zigbee, Sidewalk, Bluetooth – while it will seamlessly pick up your existing devices connected to Alexa to let you control them. The Echo Hub also presents your Routines, so you can open up that interface and push those into action – and the new, more sophisticated, Alexa will soon let you create Routines by voice, making everything much simpler.
The Echo Hub is 8-inches and can be mounted flush to the wall, very much like the expensive smart home controllers that come from custom installers. Having seen the likes of Crestron and other “home automation” hubs (as they were back in the day), that’s what I’ve always wanted, and the Echo Hub now presents an option for those of us who have built an Alexa smart home and want a better way to control it.
While an Alexa system is easy to control through an Echo – with voice being the first point of call – sometimes you just want to use touch instead. Yes, that’s there in the Alexa app, or via a fiddly system on Echo Show, it shouldn’t be restricted to one person’s phone or take lots of taps – it should just be available to everyone in the home.
The important thing about the Echo Hub is that it’s one device for one job. In a world of convergence, sometimes specificity is the key to success. Being able to install one or more Echo Hubs in my home as the place to go to control all my smart devices, is really appealing.
From what I’ve seen the interface is faster and much more fluid than other Alexa devices, it has been designed just with controlling your smart home in mind and it’s so much better as a result. Multiview cameras from Ring, easy taps to set a scene, instant adjustment of heating, Routines at a tap. From what I’ve seen of the Echo Hub, its focused approach to smart home control will mean that by doing a little less, it does a whole lot more.