News from Amazon and Google for your KNX or Loxone smart home

All at once summer collapsed into autumn and as last year, this year brings a new array of smart home products and news with annual hardware events held by both Amazon and Google.

Last week Amazon held their event on the 24th of September and last Wednesday, on the 30th Google surprised with a batch of their own batch of new products and software updates.

Amazon’s vision for your home is that talking to your smart home is just a temporary stage, soon the smart home will know what we want and do it for us, automatically. Are you creeped out or excited?

Learn more about the new gadgets such as the in-house security drone, Echo speaker that can also move and finally a new Google Speaker. Read on for the most important new products and features to include in your Loxone or KNX smart home.

To integrate these new products and features, please connect your Loxone, Gira or KNX smart home to either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Here’s how you do it:

Everything new from Amazon for KNX/Loxone

Amazon has introduced a series of new gadgets and services that help with videoconferencing, home security and video streaming. It’s clear that Alexa is more vital than ever during the coronavirus pandemic when people are stuck at home.

"Nobody anticipated the pandemic, and we certainly didn't plan for it, but I think our homes are now our offices, they're our schools, they're our movie theaters. A lot of our products became even more applicable in this environment."
- Dave Limp, Amazon's Senior Vice President

David Limp has also explained at the event that the smart home of the future will be predictive and proactive, instead of just driven by voice commands. This means lights turning on when you arrive home (see Geofencing for Alexa ad KNX/Loxone), heating turning off when the house is empty, security drones taking flight when an intruder breaks in.

Sounds like science fiction, but David Limp has mentioned that this has been on Amazon’s roadmap for decades already. He has also said that the ambient home of the future “is a long-term vision, and there’s still lots to be done to make that a reality”.

Amazon’s new smart speaker doesn’t just look sleek with its pretty fabric cover, it also packs great sound. All of their smart speakers also act as Bridges for Amazon Sidewalk, a low-bandwidth IoT network that can stretch the connectivity of your smart home beyond the four walls to the driveway, pavement and even to your neighbours’ garden. This extended network will launch first in the US later this year and then also to the other parts of the world.

Apart from novelties, Amazon also unveiled new features that you’ll be able to use with your existing Echo device. From more privacy settings, to improved wake word sensitivity and more!

Amazon Echo (4th generation) - $99.99

Amazon’s original smart speaker has gotten a new look, this time it’s a sphere instead of a cylinder. Under the surface sits a 3-inch woofer that supports Dolby audio and this Echo speaker also has a built-in smart home hub. It’s a ZigBee hub that also supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Amazon Sidewalk. It will be released on October 22 with the set price being $99.99.

It combines the best of Echo and Echo Plus into a single device at the same affordable Echo price. It automatically senses the acoustics of your space in fine-tines audio playback accordingly.

the new Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd generation) - $249.99

This is the first ever Echo device that can move, even if just from side to side :D The Echo Show 10 is the second generation of Amazon’s flagship smart display and features a screen with a motorised speaker base that can rotate to track any human figures in its field of view. This comes handy to hold you in frame during a video call, help keep a recipe in your view as you cook or it can act as a security camera, while periodically checking the room for human shapes when you’re gone stream footage to your smartphone.

the new Amazon Echo Show 10 

Ring Always Home Cam - $250

This one was probably the most dystopian offering from the event and the one that got all the spotlight. The Always Home Cam is a drone with what looks like a Ring video doorbell attached to it. It can fly from its docking station on pre-set paths at your request or if a security event is detected (e.g. door sensor being triggered).

The Home Cam is coming out next year and will be priced at $250.

Amazon Alexa for kids

Amazon is even doubling down on its push to bring Alexa to kids. The company released its latest child-friendly smart speaker, the $60 Echo Dot Kids Edition, which comes in a tiger or panda design. Alexa upgrades now make it possible for the virtual assistant to distinguish whether an adult or a child is talking. If Alexa hears a child's voice, it will go into kid-friendly mode when answering questions.

Amazon Care Hub

The company unveiled a new program called Care Hub, an Alexa feature that lets people watch over their family members from afar. After you and a family member agree to set up a Care Hub connection, you'll be able to monitor that person's activity feed with Echo devices.

"We can all relate to the idea that there's a lot of family that we can't see right now. Even if they were nearby, we wouldn't be able to see them. I'm in that situation," said Daniel Rausch, Amazon's vice president of smart home. He mentioned that he's testing out the service now with his mom.

Command without saying the wake word each time

Alexa is getting smarter! When you constantly have to say “Alexa” for every single command around your KNX or Loxone smart home, even if only seconds apart, it can be frustrating. You can now activate Alexa’s conversational mode by saying: “Alexa, join our conversation.” and multiple people will be able to interact without saying the wake word.

Amazon has shown an example of two people ordering a pizza, both speaking back and forth with Alexa on the size and type of pizza to order. This is just one of the ways Alexa is introducing the support for natural conversations and showing how it’s different from the voice assistant communication experience today.

Another upgrade focuses on making Alexa sound more natural by understanding the conversation’s context and adjusting its tone accordingly. Alexa might place more stress on certain words or take more pauses, Amazon says.

Delete your voice interactions

At the beginning of 2020, all smart assistants have shifted their privacy settings, but Alexa has gone one step further. You can now delete every interaction you’ve had with Alexa by saying: “Alexa, delete everything I’ve ever said.”

Previously you’d have to delete all conversations with the voice assistant by going into the Alexa app’s privacy settings.

Everything new from Google for KNX/Loxone

Google too is getting smarter and adding devices to their product line. They have breezed through their whole presentation in 30 minutes with their new Nest Audio speaker at the center of the attention.

It has been a very, very long wait, but it seems Google is finally ready to update its hugely popular Google Home speaker, with a more powerful and better looking smart speaker.

Nest Audio - $99.99

The speaker is upgraded with a 75% increase in volume and 50% increase in bass boost when compared to the original Google Home speaker from 2016. The new design makes it more appealing to the eye and worth showcasing in your living room, unlike its predecessor that people made fun of for looking like an air freshener.

The Nest Audio adapts to your home to ensure that you’re getting the best sound experience possible. It features an on-device machine learning chip that enables the Assistant to respond and answer as much as two times faster than previous devices. Combined with its ability to connect with everything Google in your house, this could be the smartest smart speaker Google’s ever made.

Overall, the Nest Audio is the upgrade the original Google Home sorely needed. Thanks to its improved speakers and aesthetics, it can now compete with more dedicated sound systems and certainly holds more appeal for audiophiles than the previous iterations. It also respects your privacy with a manual mute switch to turn off the mic.

It’ll compete most directly with Amazon’s new Echo, which costs the same but provides access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant instead of Google’s.

Google Chromecast - $50

Google’s new Chromecast is different from previous models in a few ways: it doesn’t require a phone to play content (though you can still cast from your devices), it includes a dedicated remote in the box with its own Assistant button, and has YouTube and Netflix quick launch buttons. It runs on its own OS called Google TV.

Google Home/Away Assist

With Home/Away Assist, all your Nest products will automatically change their behavior as people come and go. For example, it can turn on your Nest Cam to help you keep an eye on things when you leave home and turn it off when you’re home and don’t need it.

Learn more about Home/Away Assist HERE.

It looks like the smart assistant market is shifting towards more and more intelligence through automation, surveillance and language-processing. Who knows what shifts will 2021 bring and how will coronavirus impact the development of new products and features.