If you're Ecobee and you have to compete against an Alphabet-backed heavyweight like Nest in the smart home space, what do you do? Simple: add built-in voice control that Nest can't currently match. The new Ecobee4 thermostat incorporates Amazon's Alexa. That gives you hands-off control over your home's climate, of course (such as saying when you're away), but it also turns your thermostat into a sort of wall-mounted Echo -- you can use just about any Alexa skill that makes sense. If you want to set a reminder or fetch a recipe, you might not need a separate device.
The Ecobee4 will go on sale May 15th for $249, the same regular price as Nest's thermostat. Alexa will also be present in a light switch due later in 2017.
This won't matter too much if you already have an Echo, Google Home or some other device that already gives you voice control. However, this is a big deal for the mainstream. Many people are only just encountering connected home tech for the first time, and even those that are familiar might balk at the idea of needing both a smart thermostat and a speaker to go hands-free. Ecobee is effectively promising both crowds a simple solution: buy this one device and you get both temperature control and a Star Trek-like smart home hub. And for Amazon, this could help make Alexa a truly central part of the smart home, not just a nice-to-have feature.