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Alexa gets smart about thermostats with new Nest-ready tools

Amazon's new set of developer tools for third parties will help bring more smart thermostats under Alexa's control -- including the Nest Learning Thermostat.

By the end of the month, you'll be able to sync your Nest Learning Thermostat up with Alexa-powered gadgets like the Amazon Echo.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon is continuing to flesh out virtual assistant Alexa's smart home chops with a new set of thermostat-specific developer tools designed to help bring more connected climate control gadgets under the virtual assistant's control. Chief among these is the popular Nest Learning Thermostat, which you'll be able to sync with Alexa-powered gadgets by the end of the month.

The application program interface, or API, for thermostats joins Amazon's APIs for Alexa-powered smart lighting controls and Alexa-curated news briefings. Those APIs help third-party developers sync their smart lights or newsfeeds up with Alexa, and have already brought a number of bulbs and news services into the Amazon fold. Amazon hopes that the thermostat API will have the same effect, and says that thermostats from Insteon, Honeywell, and Nest have already jumped on board.

They'll join the Ecobee3, which is currently the only connected thermostat that Alexa knows how to recognize and interact with. Hook it up with an Alexa-powered device like the Amazon Echo smart speaker or Amazon Fire TV, and you'll be able to tell Alexa to turn the heat down, or set the thermostat to a specific temperature.

Thanks to the API, you'll be able to enjoy those same controls with other connected thermostats. And, unlike Alexa's "Skills" (the voice platform's apps), you won't need to add any extra "invocation words" to your command in order to activate the Alexa-powered climate controls. You can just say, "Alexa, set the heat to 70" as opposed to saying "Alexa, ask Nest to set the heat to 70."

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The announcement comes alongside the arrival of two new Alexa gadgets: the Amazon Tap, and the Amazon Echo Dot. The first is a battery-powered version of the Echo that you activate with a button-press; the second is a wired gadget that always listens for your voice commands like the Echo does, but pipes the audio to an external speaker setup.

Before now, you needed the help of third-party services like IFTTT in order to sync the Nest up with Alexa. IFTTT, which stands for "If This, Then That," lets you craft automation recipes between products that otherwise won't work together.

We tested that setup out at the CNET Smart Home, and it worked well enough -- but we much preferred the Ecobee3's direct integration. Now, the Nest and other thermostats like it can enjoy that same level of control. Alexa is getting smarter -- and simpler.