#Trending: Amazon's smart home rivals fight back

The smart home is having a moment with news from Ikea, Google and Samsung
#Trending: Amazon's rivals fight back
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In February, we published a piece called Why Alexa is winning the smart home war. In it, we tried to get to the bottom of whether all the media hype (ahem) over Amazon's Echo smart home hub and its Alexa voice assistant is echoed in sales and what people are actually using in their homes.

What's clear from the news this week is that none of Amazon's smart home rivals are waving white flags anytime soon. The smart home is just too important to the world domination plans of Samsung and Google.

What we're seeing falls into two groups: tech companies trying to beat Alexa at her own game and a home company going for something different.


That's a bingo. This week Ikea jumped into the smart home in quite a big way after its previous minor experiments with wireless charging lamps and such. The new Trådfi collection (above) includes affordable smart bulbs, motion sensors and smart light doors and panels starting at $19.

That all looks like regular Ikea stuff.

Exactly. It's interesting to look at how Ikea and Amazon compare in their visions for the smart home. Amazon does now have partnerships and a lower priced Echo Dot but at the beginning, it was simply selling a pretty ugly cylindrical smart speaker.

If it had stuck at that game, Ikea would have slaughtered its home dreams but Amazon is now embracing the idea of an invisible UI in the smart home.

And is Ikea doing that too?

Essentially, yes. Its Surte and Jormien light doors are compatible with existing Bestå and Metod kitchen cabinets and collections, so the connected lighting really will blend into the dumb, Scandi-stylish furniture around it.

Plus just like Paul with his five month Smart home diary, connected gadgets will become part of the conversation when furnishing a new home or renovating an existing one rather than an afterthought.

That's big.

Tis. Big for how we think about tech and no doubt big for sales for Ikea. But like we said, Google and Samsung have other ideas and think tech companies should be at the centre of the smart home, not homeware companies.

#Trending: Amazon's smart home rivals fight back

So what's shaking?

First up, Google has brought its Home hub/speaker on a par with Amazon Echo in a few ways. It's on sale in the UK - tick. And, more importantly, it has a few new partners so that Home now works with the August Smart Lock, Logitech Harmony, LIFX bulbs, TP-Link, Wink and a few other smart home devices.

Nice. Have they stopped those ads though?

The Beauty and the Beast contextual ads seem to have been an experiment but we'll be keeping an eye on this. If Google carries on down this route, we might be sticking it in the same column as these spammy smart Hari Mari flip flops. And that's not somewhere you want to be. Trust us.

Samsung doesn't have a speaker?

Correct. It does have a shiny new voice assistant named Bixby, though. (Bixby, fetch my cashmere slippers! Bixby, send this caviar back! etc etc).

A Samsung rep confirmed to us that the digital assistant is coming to future Gear smartwatches and Samsung smart home devices: "Bixby is the assistant that we're going to empower many other Samsung devices with - the watch, the TV, the fridge." No timeline yet, though.

Like..... Alexa?

Like Alexa. Samsung has a couple of advantages, though. It makes a lot of smart home kit itself and when it was demoing its new Connect Home router and hub alongside a new Connect app, we saw how setting your mode to 'away' turned off all lights and told the Samsung robot vac to start cleaning the floors.

Alexa works with everything and that will be a serious advantage - we're just interested to see how Amazon responds to this little lot.


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