This week in smart home: Alexa learns to suggest skills, and more

A look back at all the goings on in the smart home world

The week in smart home: Alexa skills improve

This week's smart home news was all about making moves. Or, in Apple's case, finally making a move after a year-long wait. That's right, AirPlay 2 was finally released, having been first announced this time last year at WWDC.

Google made some moves, as Google Home has passed Amazon Echo on the sales chart. Not only that, but it added support for Netatmo's Presence and Welcome smart security cameras, too, giving it a slight advantage over Alexa in the security cam department.

But that's not all that happened this week. Read on for more, and head over to our dedicated news section for more goodness.

This week in smart home: Alexa suggests skills and more

Alexa can now suggest skills

One of the more annoying bits of using Alexa is telling it to use certain skills. Instead of saying "Alexa, order me a cheese pizza" you've to say something like "Alexa, open Domino's and order a cheese pizza." It gets the job done, but it doesn't feel natural. It feels off.

Amazon is working on that with a new name-free CanFulfillIntentRequest interface. Basically, developers can use this interface to tell Alexa what their skills are best at. So when you ask "play relaxing sounds" Alexa will search for the skills that are best at that and then suggest one. Much easier, and much simpler.

By the way, Alexa also uses machine learning to determine which skill is the best for your request, so this isn't a situation where certain brands are pushed to the top because they're certain brands. Whatever Alexa thinks is the best choice is the best choice, apparently.

This week in smart home: Alexa suggests skills and more

Ecobee gets massive funding to take on Nest

Ecobee has turned into a titan of smart thermostats. Its latest, the Ecobee4, even comes with Alexa built in. Not only that, but it's got a great app and it's easy to install. It also gives you a great alternative to Nest, but it looks like Ecobee may become a great alternative to Nest in other ways.

The company has just received $36 million in funding from Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. That brings Ecobee's investment total up to $155 million, after Amazon invested in the company via the Alexa Fund.

While Ecobee has mostly made thermostats, founder and CEO Stuart Lombard says the new round of investment will help it expand past thermostats and to build a "home operating system" to help people control their homes via smart devices. That means Ecobee is about to bring the fight to Nest.

This week in smart home: Alexa suggests skills and more

Schlage Locks now work with Google Home

Netatmo isn't the only one getting Google Assistant support. Schlage Locks' Sense Smart Deadbolt now has Google Assistant support. So you'll be able to control your locks via Assistant on your Google Home or smartphone. You can't unlock your door for security reasons, but you can lock it and check if you locked it.

This week in smart home: Alexa suggests skills and more

A smarter way to put the bins out

Did you put your trash can out? Did you put the right one out? Sometimes you need to know which bin you need to put out on which day, and that can get confusing. Developer Darren Tarband made an ingenious device that checks the local council's website to see which color bin to put out and then changes the color to that bin. He calls it the... Bindicator *applause*.

Top smart home deals

Every week we scour the web for the best smart home deals – check out our pick of this week's biggest bargains below.

TAGGED   smart home
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