Amazon takes a dip into unbridled territory with its all-new Echo Hub. Launched alongside the latest Echo Show 8 and Echo Frames, the device is essentially a touchscreen control panel designed to work in tandem with all your existing Alexa-enabled smart home peripherals, and more.
Now, from a specifications stand point, it’s basically an Echo Show 8 in that it’s an 8in HD tablet, except it features a slimmer and much more compact design, ostensibly for fitting flush against a wall, or placed unobtrusively on a shelf or desktop.
Designed to be a fixed, stationary device, there are also no cameras, though the Echo Hub does have an IR sensor that it uses to wake up as you approach, ready to be engaged. Simple yet effective. What’s more, the Echo Hub can be powered entirely over Ethernet as a PoE device, which should lead credence to its features and capabilities.
The device has a slew of built-in radios for Matter, Thread, Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy devices, and Amazon Sidewalk – a new low power, long range protocol that extends the range of Amazon devices beyond your usual home Wi-Fi network. Sidewalk is now live on Echo speakers, various Ring and Alexa-enabled products, as well as Tile trackers, and is Amazon’s attempt to create seamless and smart-enabled neighbourhood. Ambitious.
Echo Hub can connect and control any smart home device you can throw at it. Amazon says it’s relatively simple to connect to your devices, and once configured they can be controlled via widgets on the home screen, or via Alexa voice prompts thanks to built-in microphones. When not in use it powers down into an ambient mode that displays the time and weather forecast, or even you favourite family photos.
It can control your lights, view multiple camera feeds at once, and manage your smart Thermostat, Ring locks, doorbells and security devices. Speaking of which, built-in speakers and a microphone array allow for two-way audio to talk to anyone at your doorbell, be it the postman or a nosy neighbour. Of course, this also means you can listen to audio or watch video, though I’m pretty sure the device is not intended as an all-encompassing media device, like say, the latest Google Tablet, I just think it’s pretty cool that the option is there.
Of note, Amazon also teased a new Map View mode that allows users to plot out the locations of various smartphone gadgets in and around the home. Amazon says this function is designed to easily search through a long list of connected home gadgets and users are able to delete their floorplans at anytime. The feature will arrive on the Alexa app and Echo Hub in early 2024.
Echo Hub will be priced at $179.99 and will be available later this year. Imagine how many smart home installers will be put out of business! In fairness, it’s most appealing to those already deeply invested in the Amazon ecosystem, though it remains an enticing prospect, nonetheless. Customers can sign up to be notified when pre-orders are available, and you can gauge interest over at Amazon.