Amazon updates the Echo Plus so it can control the smart home when the internet goes down

Amazon today is giving its premium smart home-ready Echo Plus device a notable update.

The device, which includes a Zigbee smart home hub built into the Echo, is getting a new fabric design, and a temperature sensor. However, what’s more interesting is the addition of something Amazon calls “local voice control.” What this means is that if the internet goes down, you’ll still be able to use Alexa to control your smart home devices.

As the company explained this morning at its hardware event in Seattle, a hub that works with a cloud-based system can often run into trouble when internet access becomes spotty or unavailable. So what the company did to address this is build in local voice control, a new capability that takes the best of its natural language understanding and its automatic speech recognition and runs it all locally on the device.

So when the internet goes down (and Amazon says it’s starting with the smart home capabilities here, when it comes to local voice control) you can still say “Alexa, turn on the lights” or “Alexa, turn on the plug,” and it’ll work. This feature will get better over time as the devices add more local control and more capabilities, the company noted.

Meanwhile, the temperature sensor feature will allow Alexa owners to add temperatures into their routines. For example, if the room gets too chilly, Alexa can tell you. Or if the living room reaches 80 degrees, Alexa can send a notification to your phone or turn on a connected fan.

The built-in smart home hub makes it easier to set up your connected devices. This the main reason people opt for the Plus instead of the regular Echo.

To use this feature, consumers can just say “Alexa, discover my devices,” and the Echo Plus will automatically discover your connected lights, locks, sensors, plugs, switches and other devices.

With the Echo Plus’s new Wi-Fi simple setup feature, all you’ll have to do is connect a smart device to your Wi-Fi network using the Wi-Fi password you’ve saved in your Wi-Fi locker. This works with Amazon’s new Echo devices, the Amazon Smart Plug and AmazonBasics Microwave. If you’ve bought a device that’s not on Amazon, you can scan the 2D barcode on the back instead.

The new Echo Plus has a larger 3″ Neodymium woofer and increased back volume so the bass feels stronger and the mids and highs are clearer, Amazon also says.

In terms of fabrics, it will now sport an all-new design and come in Charcoal, Heather Gray, and Sandstone.

The updated version of the Echo Plus will still remain $149.99 and it will be shipping in every country that Alexa is in today.

Check out our full coverage from the event here.