Amazon's Echo has seemed like a strange product since its announcement last year, but with an update this week, it's beginning to make a bit more sense. The voice-controlled speaker and smart assistant is now able to wirelessly control a variety of smart appliances that work with Belkin's WeMo and Philips' Hue connected home systems, according to Engadget. So far, the supported products include just lights and power switches, but those are also two of the more common connected home products — they're also among the easiest to start using. The smart appliances can all be controlled through voice commands to Echo.
This is a basic first step, but it's very much a start toward transforming Echo into something of a smart home hub. That gives Echo more of a purpose than ever — before now, the $199 device was little more than a speaker that could also duplicate some functions of Siri. It was always clear that Echo needed more to it, and given that Amazon still isn't selling it to anyone who hasn't first requested an invitation, it seems like Amazon has been aware of that as well. It's unlikely that controlling smart home devices will ever become Echo's core purpose, but it certainly makes the speaker a lot more interesting for those who own it.