Amazon wall mounted smart home control at your fingertips?
14 February 2021
Amazon Echo smart displays are great for showing off family photos, streaming videos, looking up recipes and getting weather forecasts, but smart home control is generally left to other platfoms like SmartThings. You can ask Alexa to turn on the lights or adjust the temperature through integrations, but drilling down on your various devices on the actual display requires a lot of taps and swipes.
That’s why I’m intrigued by the latest intel from Amazon — a slimmed-down, Alexa-enabled screen that would be mounted on a wall and function more like a control panel than an all-purpose smart display.
According to people familiar with the plans, Amazon is developing a new Echo device with a large touchscreen that attaches to the wall as a smart home control panel, video chat device and media player. This is particularly interesting to me as our plans include ceiling mounted speakers in most rooms connected to Alexa-enable devices like the Bose SoundTouch SA-5 or Sonos Amp. This would give voice and tactile control for music in rooms with the displays.
The company’s Lab126 hardware division is designing the device to be a digital command center, showing users upcoming calendar events, controlling smart home elements like lights and locks, and playing music and video. It would include Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and microphones and a camera for video conferencing.
The device would compete with professionally installed smart home control screens like solutions from Control4 Corporation as well as Apple iPads framed into walls and even Amazon’s own Echo Show used with a third-party wall mount. I’ve also considered Amazon Fire tablets running ActionTIles for smart home control. I love the wall mount idea but am not the biggest fan of having to manually recharge the wall hung units. If I were to move forward with a deployment like this I’d want to run power through the walls so the units are constantly charged and charging when docked.
Amazon is considering multiple variations, with screens of either 10 or 13 inches in size. A 10-inch display would be similar to the current Echo Show, while a 13-inch model would be Amazon’s largest device with a display. The company plans to launch it either at the end of this year or 2022. Prices ranging from $200 to $250 have been discussed internally, though the plans are still early and could change or be scrapped altogether.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has shown interest in wall devices. In 2018, they announced the Echo Wall Clock, an analog clock that shows timers set up with an Alexa speaker. Several different accessories for attaching Echo speakers to walls are also available from Amazon’s website.
As the new device is designed to mount to a wall, it will be far slimmer than the existing Echo Show. Amazon introduced its first Echo with a screen in 2017, and it has since launched several variations in different screen sizes. Last year, the company also unveiled the Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), a version with a display that swivels to follow a user around a room during a video call.
Obviously there are still a lot of questions to be answered but personally I’m hoping Amazon moves forward with this platform. From a business perspective it makes sense for Amazon as an opportunity to leverage existing development to compete with the likes of Control4 and ActionTiles. I’m just hoping they accelerate development as our home construction timeline moves forward and I’d hate to miss the window to deploy a platform like this while the walls are open to run wire. As the panels would be mounted near doorways we’d still have the smart switches nearby to run power from after the fact but Cat6 for hard-wired network may be impossible.
Switching gears a bit, Debbie and I met with our architect again this week and got our updated floor plans back. We are close to finalizing the floor plans then we move on to other elements like elevation and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing). In the meantime I’ve also been sketching out idea detail for dining room hutch, media cabinet and office built-in.
Stay tuned as Debbie and I will post the floor plan and other details once we’re done. Also, let us know your thoughts about the Amazon smart home control panel news above. Would you install a solution like this in your home? Any specific rooms you would or wouldn’t install in? What capabilities would you want to use — lighting, audio, thermostat? Let us know in the comments or email us as we’d love to hear from you.