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iDevices packed Alexa into a light switch at CES 2018

The Instinct Wi-Fi light switch features built-in sensors for motion and ambient light, as well as a microphone and speaker for your Alexa commands.

The iDevices Instinct, coming later in 2018.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We've seen plenty of smart light switches that work with Alexa over the past year or two. Now, at CES 2018, iDevices is streamlining things with a new Wi-Fi light switch that comes with Amazon's popular virtual assistant built right in. You won't need an Amazon Echo device to talk to her -- you'll just speak your command to the switch itself.

The switch is called the Instinct, and iDevices tells us it'll be up for sale on Amazon and on the iDevices website sometime later in 2018. Along with Alexa, it includes full dimming capabilities, support for three-way switch setups and onboard sensors for motion and ambient light that can trigger automated lighting changes based on your daily routine. The asking price is yet to be determined, but if the company's existing light switches are any indication, it'd be a surprise to see it cost less than $100.

When it gets here, it'll join a growing number of smart home gadgets with their own microphone and speaker for onboard voice control. For one thing, iDevices is making a ceiling fan switch, also shown here at CES. Other examples include the Ecobee4 smart thermostat, GE's Alexa-enabled Sol desk lamp and upcoming smart ceiling lights, Samsung's Bixby-equipped Family Hub fridge and countless others. 

It's enough to make me wonder if the predictions for explosive smart speaker growth in 2018 and beyond might have it all wrong. Seems to me like we're more likely to see smart speakers disappear into our walls and our existing appliances. If so, the Instinct will be a product worth keeping an eye on.

The voice trifecta

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Along with support for Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, you can also use the iDevices app to control the Instinct switch on your Android or iOS device.

iDevices

Along with the built-in Alexa controls, the Instinct also supports external voice controls from Google Assistant, provided you've already got something like a Google Home smart speaker ready to accept your commands. It supports Siri, too, thanks to the switch's compatibility with Apple HomeKit, the set of iOS-based smart home protocols that let you control compatible connected gadgets on your iPhone or iPad using voice commands.

Still, it's Alexa that's front and center in the switch itself -- for now, anyway. I wonder if iDevices will eventually let you pick between multiple in-switch assistants, the way you'll soon be able to with the Sonos One smart speaker. 

iDevices says that the Instinct sports an intentionally traditional aesthetic in order to better blend in with common home decor -- the blue Alexa ring only lights up whenever the assistant hears you say the wake word. 

From there, you'll use Alexa just like you would with an Echo speaker. Aside from asking her to turn the lights on and off, you can ask for the weather or a joke, you can set timers and alarms and you can enable any of the tens of thousands of third-party Alexa skills.

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iDevices tells me that the switch will also include Amazon's ESP feature, which makes it so that only the Alexa device closest to you responds to your command. In addition, you'll be able to group it with other compatible Alexa devices for synchronized music playback. You won't be able to use it to call other Alexa devices or send them messages, though, which is a shame -- the switch could have served as an interesting sort of room-to-room intercom, otherwise. 

For music playback, you'll be able to stream songs from Amazon Prime Music and also from Spotify. The switch includes built-in speaker hardware from Soen Audio, a company with a stated specialty in creating good sound within small form factors. I can't say that I'm expecting a whole lot in terms of light switch sound quality -- if it sounds as good as the puny Echo Dot, even, I'll be impressed. Then again, maybe the Instinct benefits from a low bar.

Voice aside, you can also control and automate the switch from your Android or iOS device using the iDevices app. If you're an iPhone user, you'll be able to add the switch in with your HomeKit scenes and control it right from the Home app alongside other HomeKit-compatible smart home gadgets.

Outlook

The Instinct Switch sticks to the iDevices playbook by focusing on broad third-party compatibility and hub-free ease of use. The addition of built-in Alexa support and sensors that can switch the light on and off whenever motion or ambient light are detected are both nice steps forward for the iDevices brand, and enough for the Instinct to call itself one of the most advanced big-name smart switches on the market. If it isn't too expensive, it could end up being one of the year's more tempting smart lighting upgrades.

What to expect from the smart home at CES 2018: We take a look at the smart home and appliance trends we expect to see this year.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.