Amazon's Echo was one of the stars of the retail giant's record-breaking holiday period, and it was only a matter of time before competitors started making their own smart speakers. LG's new SmartThinQ hub appears to be one such copycat. The hub, announced today ahead of a demonstration at CES next week, is visually similar to Amazon's Echo, and like that device, features a large built-in speaker that can stream music. But where the Echo is only gradually moving from cool curio to useful gadget, LG is pitching the SmartThinQ as the "gateway" to your automated home, connecting to smart refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners, and displaying their information on a 3.5-inch color LCD display.
LG's device can't be controlled by voice
The hub uses the open AllJoyn "internet of things" platform, connecting to other appliances — both smart and conventional — via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Zigbee, and in addition to displaying notifications on its screen, can announce them through its speaker. The new hub is also likely to extend control to more devices from webOS 3.0 TVs running the new IoTV app announced this month. Like the Echo, the SmartThinQ hub can play music, either from free iHeartRadio stations or streamed over Bluetooth from smartphone or tablet, but where Amazon's Alexa assistant can respond to the sound of your voice, taking commands to play songs, find restaurants, or search for sports scores, LG's device can only be controlled via smartphone.
Notifications and controls are managed via a dedicated SmarThinQ app, meaning you'll need to manually select options to turn your air conditioner up, increase your thermostat temperature, or skip a song, instead of simply yelling for your speaker to do it for you. But while it may not be as easy to use, by connecting with LG's other SmartThinQ products — including the SmartThinQ sensor the Korean company announced earlier this year that can make regular appliances "smart-aware" — the new hub potentially offers more options for actually managing your home than Amazon's little experiment.