(This newsletter was originally sent to subscribers on 8th February 2023)
Hi I’m Tristan! Welcome to today’s Smart Home Point newsletter.
There’s a lot to unpack in today’s newsletter, including various Matter updates, a few sales, and David Limp (Amazon Senior VP of Devices) saying that they have an internal “plan” to “monetize” Alexa.
Amazon Has A “Plan” To “Monetize” Alexa
The Times (UK) interviewed David Limp, who is the Senior VP of Devices at Amazon. This was his first European interview since Amazon’ announced 18,000 job cuts, including at their Alexa division, but Limp said that Amazon are still very committed to Alexa – which is good to hear.
What was LESS good to read, though, was when the article covered Alexa’s future profitability and Limp said they have a “plan” for this internally, and going on to say:
“We’re figuring out how to monetize it. Fifty per cent of Alexa customers use it for some form of shopping, Smart Home is up 25 or 30 per cent year-on-year in terms of usage and every time somebody engages with Smart Home they go out and they buy smart lights or smart plugs or other types of things that make their homes smarter and some of those get sold on Amazon. So that’s a flywheel, as well.”David Limp, 6th February 2023, The Times
Now, there might be nothing to be concerned about. Amazon are earning money from all the extra device sales (as that quote mentions).
However I continue to be suspicious about Amazon nerfing Prime Music and charging for upcoming features like “Hey Disney!”. Will Amazon start charging a subscription for its smart home services, too?
My own view is that I doubt that Amazon would ever completely cut off Alexa/Echo features without a monthly fee, however I really wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon start charging for certain Alexa features going forward (or they only allow you to have 10 routines before you have to take out an Alexa subscription).
We’ll see. For now, Alexa continues to be free – despite there apparently being a “plan” to “monetize” it at some point.
Both Ring and Blink have launched sales this week. The Ring one seems to be worldwide looking at their website, although the Blink one might be more limited (I had the email for the UK, but their discounts only seem to be available on Amazon.co.uk).
Either way, there are some decent discounts available so if you were planning on buying more Ring kit, it could be worth checking out the deals.
Blog Post: Why Ring Sends Multiple Notifications
Some people have contacted me saying that they have been receiving multiple Ring app notifications for the same event. So we have recently published a guide covering reasons why this might be happening, and how to resolve it.
Surprisingly, rich notifications (snapshot captures), smart watches and using a VPN are all common causes for this problem.
Various Matter updates
Today’s newsletter is a three-in-one for Matter news. To recap, Matter is a smart home initiative from multiple companies so that their devices can work together better. There have been a few Matter updates in recent weeks:
- TP-Link have released their first Matter-compatible smart plug, the P125M. This $19.99 smart plug can be hooked up to a Matter hub, and then integrated with other Matter-compatible smart devices.
- Aqara (a company that sells various ZigBee devices, along with Aqara Hubs) have started rolling out a firmware update to owners of their M2 Hub. This update introduces Matter protocol support, meaning that their 40+ ZigBee devices will now be Matter-compatible. This update is V4.0.0 and it will slowly roll out over the coming weeks.
- Samsung SmartThings have upgraded their iPhone app to support Matter, plus their newly-announced SmartThings Station has both Matter and Thread support. The Verge have a full write-up on the SmartThings Station (link below), but it’s nice to see SmartThings fully jump on board Matter and Thread.
It’s great to see so many smart home companies roll out Matter support. I was originally a bit sceptical of Matter because 99% of smart devices already supported Alexa and Google Home (meaning they could be integrated together anyway).
However I was wrong: Matter is shaping up to be a really useful project, especially because so many companies are supporting it. I think it will kill off Z-Wave in time, especially because they are trying to ‘go it alone’ and not join the Matter project.
The Hue Sync Box Is (Sort Of) No Longer Required
If you want to have your Philips Hue lights automatically sync to what’s on your TV box, you previously had to purchase an expensive $250 Hue TV Sync Box.
But this is now (sort of) not required anymore.
Owners of a Samsung smart TV can instead purchase a Hue Sync app through their TV, which then stops you needing a separate Sync Box. This TV app will scan what’s on your TV, and sync your nearby lights accordingly.
While being able to skip the $250 Box is nice, there are few downsides to be aware of:
- The Samsung Hue Sync app costs $130. So while it’s almost half the price of needing the Sync Box, it’s still pricey.
- The Hue Sync TV app only works with 2022 and newer Samsung smart TVs, so any previous-gen models will not be supported.
- The Hue Sync TV app is tied to one specific TV; you can’t ‘move’ it to another TV, like the Sync Box. So this app is $130 a pop: if you replace your TV, you need to pay again.
It’s nice that you can skip the Hue Sync box, of course, but I’m not sure whether I like that final restriction. If your TV is faulty and gets replaced, can you move the app then – or do you still need to pay again on the replacement TV?
That’s not clear right now, but the Hue website contains more info if you’re interested in this new app.
Eufy (Finally) Respond To Security Concerns
I reported previously about people raising concerns about Eufy’s security on Twitter and YouTube (specifically about “local-only” images being sent to Eufy’s cloud servers).
After lots of silence, ANNKE (Eufy’s owner) have finally responded with a wide-ranging statement.
They have improved the security of various parts of their services, and they have now ensured that any devices set to local-only storage will no longer move data to the cloud.
As a big fan of Eufy, I am relieved that they have tightened up security in a few areas. Although you could question why they took so long to respond to these concerns: 1-2 days of silence is understandable, but 1-2 months? Not so much.
That’s it for today’s newsletter – thanks for reading. I am hoping that Amazon don’t start a disruptive subscription service for their Alexa platform, and instead they seek to “monetize” Alexa in a different way – but who knows.
As always, if you have any questions (or just want to say ‘hi’), please feel free to reply to this email.
I’m aiming to send the next newsletter out in a few weeks. Until then, have a good one!