If you’re thinking about investing in smart home technology, now is one of the best times to see what one of the biggest names in consumer tech has planned for the near (and not-so-near) future of web-connected gear. The big brand in question is Amazon, and the company’s fall hardware event is soon upon us, although exactly when is still to be determined.
Last year’s showcase took place on September 28 and featured a range of new products, including the Amazon Smart Thermostat, the Echo Show 15, and Amazon Astro, a bite-sized robotic companion powered by Alexa.
And while the rumor mill has been on the quiet side, we can still speculate as to what we’ll see at Amazon’s 2022 event. Read on to learn about what we think the company has in store this year.
A new generation of Echo speakers
With the December 2021 release of the Echo Show 15, along with the second-gen iterations of the Echo Show 5 and 8 models (also released in 2021), it’s unlikely we’ll hear about any new smart displays at Amazon’s fall showcase. That said, it’s been a minute since the Echo speaker lineup has received any love, with the fourth-gen Echo and Echo Dot being on shelves for two years now.
Could we get an announcement about a fifth generation of Echo speakers? Possibly. Perhaps the greater question is what could Amazon possibly add or improve upon in the fifth wave of first-party hardware.
The 2020 models saw a radical overhaul from the puck-shaped designs of O.G. Echo speakers to an all-new spherical take on the smart peripheral, both for the standard Echo and Echo Dot versions. While it’s unlikely that Amazon would go for another aesthetic revamp, it’s possible that developers could focus on the guts of the Echo lineup. Think more along the lines of improving sound quality, maybe by enhancing tools like computational audio for dialing in the best Echo audio based on the listening environment, as well as hardware tweaks to drivers and amplification.
It would also be a good idea for Amazon to start figuring out how to build Dolby Atmos capabilities into its speaker family, or to introduce some kind of proprietary Amazon codec for 3D soundstaging (a little loftier). When you consider the fact that Amazon operates its own HD music platform, and that more and more competitors are figuring out ways to add Atmos to web-connected speakers and soundbars, it makes sense for the titan of tech to hop on the Dolby wagon, pronto.
Speaking of soundbars, wouldn’t it be great if Amazon surprised us with its own Echo bar? Similar to Sonos, users could connect the bar to their TVs using digital optical or HDMI ARC (for Dolby Atmos decoding), delivering home-theater-style sound without the need for additional speakers. And with Alexa onboard, music streaming services can be accessed in a pinch, along with the ability to control your smart home ecosystem.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll get another wave of Fire TV streaming devices, it would also be interesting if Amazon were to build a streamer into a soundbar, similar to Roku’s tried and true Streambar system.
The wonderful world of Ring
It’s been some time since we’ve heard anything about the Ring Always Home Cam, or any new Ring products or services for that matter. While it’s possible that Amazon will reveal some more information about the polarizing security drone this fall, there’s just as good of a chance that we’ll go through the entire showcase without mention of the airborne device.
Compatible with a number of Ring security systems, the Always Home Cam automatically takes flight in the event that a Ring motion or contact sensor is tripped (a Ring Alarm subscription required), or whenever a flight is manually launched through the Ring app. Users won’t be able to physically pilot the Home Cam mid-flight, but they will have the ability to create up to 50 pre-programmed flight paths for the drone to navigate.
Equipped with an HD lens, the Always Home Cam will be able to display live views during its course around your home, and when docked, the lens becomes obscured by the charging base, making it impossible for hackers to see into your home.
Partnering with Rapid Response, Virtual Security Guard subscribers will have access to third-party professional monitoring for any number of Ring outdoor cameras, for both residential and commercial properties. Agents will only keep an eye out for motion-related events, and if one does occur, representatives will be able to deter would-be thieves through two-way talk and can dispatch emergency services if needed.
In order to use the platform, subscribers will need one or several Ring outdoor security cameras, a Ring Protect Pro plan, as well a Ring Alarm with Professional Monitoring.
A new smart thermostat (or two)
Amazon released its own smart thermostat last year, which is a pretty decent addition to the world of web-connected temperature controls, there was one major miss — no built-in Alexa.
Due to the absence of onboard speakers and microphones, if you want to use voice controls to adjust the HVAC system in your home, you’ll need an Alexa-ready smart speaker, display, or the Alexa app to send the commands to the thermostat. Alexa (and other voice assistants) continue to be integrated into new thermostats like the 2022 Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium, so it would be nice if Amazon introduced mics and speakers, while diversifying its own lineup.
Ideally, we’d like to imagine the following outcome:
Amazon will announce an all-new smart thermostat for 2022, one with far-field mics and a speaker for direct voice controls. Similar to the Google Nest universe, perhaps the new thermostat will also use more advanced processes to automatically dial in the perfect temperature for your homestead, in addition to a slew of other features; while the more basic model (without speakers and microphones) will still be available for a lower price.
Will Astro finally see the light of day?
Announced at Amazon’s 2021 fall event, Amazon Astro is a $1,500 ($1,000 with a six-month trial of Ring Protect Pro) Alexa-powered robotic companion that can be navigated around our homes using the Astro app, voice commands, and compatible Ring products and services.
Loaded up with object avoidance tech, an interactive touchscreen for video calls, content streaming and web searches, and built-in cargo space for touting items around your house, we haven’t heard anything new about the autonomous bot since the official 2021 unveiling. So it’s possible that Amazon could drop a hint or two (or an official release date) toward when we can be expecting the little guy.