The Amazon Echo was the one of the darlings of the online retailer’s record-breaking holiday season, so it was only a matter of time before a competitor popped out something similar. That competitor will be LG with its SmartThinQ hub, which looks very similar to the Echo and includes a large speaker for streaming music.
But LG’s device will focus on the connected home—monitoring various sensors and monitoring and controlling smart home appliances—where the Echo is more of a personal digital assistant. To that end, the SmartThinQ will support the Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Bluetooth protocols, as well as Wi-Fi and the AllJoyn Internet of Things platform. LG
Also unlike the Echo, LG’s SmartThinQ will have a 3.5-inch LCD on its angled top, which will display notifications from connected devices as well as reminders from personal calendars. While the SmartThinQ hub can talk to you much like the Echo does, it's not equipped with a microphone and cannot respond to voice commands. Users will use a smartphone app to control the hub.
LG recently partnered with Lowe's to integrate LG's connected-home devices into the Iris by Lowe's smart-home platform, but the company didn't specify how the SmartThinQ hub might work within Lowe's' ecosystem.
LG has not announced when the hub will ship or how much it will cost, but the press release reports that the product will be demoed during CES in Las Vegas next week. We'll get a better look at the hub then, along with the rest of the SmartThinkQ platform announced earlier this year.
Why this matters: LG is a major player in the home-appliance and smart-TV markets, but the company's press release emphasizes that company's connected-home strategy "prioritizes compatibility across multiple brands." Supporting popular standards such as Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and ZigBee will help that effort, but AllJoyn is but one of several Internet of Things platforms jockeying to become a de facto standard.
There's the Open Interconnect Consortium, backed by Intel, Samsung, and Dell; the Thread Group, backed by Nest Labs, ARM Holdings, and Samsung; Apple's HomeKit platform; Nest Labs' Weave protocol; and Google's Brillo operating system. With some companies hedging their bets by backing more than one initiative, it's anyone's guess which one will carry the day.