Amazon’s new automatic lighting feature works with Echo smart speakers and third-party sensors and lights

Amazon’s new automatic lighting feature works with Echo smart speakers and third-party sensors and lights

Amazon Echo smart speakers are getting a new feature soon: automatic lighting. Smart lighting is one of the most popular use cases in the smart home, but it can be fiddly to set up and frustrating to control. With this new capability, Amazon is looking to make it as easy as just buying and screwing in a lightbulb.

Later this year, with any compatible Echo or motion and ambient light sensor, Alexa will be able to automatically detect both brightness levels and activity in a room and intelligently decide whether to turn the lights on or off. The announcement came during an event held at Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and via a blog post on Amazon.com from Melissa Cha, VP of smart home at Amazon.

The feature requires no setup other than to opt in via the app

The feature requires no setup other than to opt in via the app. It works by using signals from devices in the room — Echo devices and motion and ambient light sensors that work with Alexa — to detect whether a room is occupied and decide to turn the lights on. It can also automatically shut off the lights after a period of inactivity.

Any Works With Alexa motion sensor and / or ambient light sensor — such as this Philips Hue device — can be used for automatic lighting control.
Image: Philips Hue

While it doesn’t require any setup, automatic lighting can be customized. For example, you can specify the level of brightness that will trigger the lights to turn on and set the time of day you want it to work and the lights that it will control.

This is similar to how many smart lighting apps — such as Philips Hue’s — make it easy to quickly program lights to react based on the time of day, ambient light, and activity, if you have the right hardware. The advantage here, though, is there’s no programming required in the app at all, and you get a wider compatibility with lights. Any lights that work with Alexa will work with automatic lighting, and that’s basically all of them.

Of course, you can currently set up routines like this using Alexa’s Routines, but again, those can be fiddly to fine-tune to fit in perfectly with your daily movements. Whether automatic lighting manages to overcome this roadblock will be interesting to see.

I’ve also tried setting up smart lights to turn on using Alexa Routines and the ultrasound sensor in Echo devices — a feature that’s available now — and I found it to be okay but inconsistent. Fingers crossed the combination of signals this feature could leverage will help boost reliability.

Automatic lighting will work on the Echo (fourth-gen), Echo Dot (fourth-gen), and Echo Dot (fifth-gen), which all feature built-in ultrasound motion detection and ambient light sensors. Amazon says it plans to extend automatic lighting to more Echo devices over time.

The Echo fourth-gen also has an ultrasound sensor on board, so it can be used as part of the automatic lighting feature.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Amazon is also bringing its Featured Routines to the Ring app. These are prepopulated Alexa Routines designed to show users how to get the most out of their devices. Previously only offered in the Alexa app, Amazon is bringing them to the Ring app based on your Ring devices.

These will include things like turning off lights when you set your Ring Alarm to Away mode, turning on your porch light when someone rings your doorbell, or having Alexa announce which door opened using triggers from Ring contact sensors.

The Routines will work with all Ring devices, including lights, alarms, and doorbells. It will also support non-Ring devices that are compatible with Alexa, such as smart lights and locks.

Amazon has said the new automatic lighting feature and new Routines will be available later this year.

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