There are two words that jump out from CNET's review of the Wink Relay touchscreen smart switch: "underutilized potential." It looked cool, but the controls were too simple. It had a built-in speaker and microphone, but it didn't do anything with them. Simply put, it lacked the sort of features that would actually compel you to hardwire it into your living room wall.
Now, almost a year and a half later, Wink wants its Relay to do more. First, it's announcing integrations with Uber, Fitbit, and IFTTT, a free and popular online automation service. On top of that, homes with multiple Wink Relays will now be able to use them as intercoms for room-to-room communication.
"There's something to be said for having a $99 Uber controller on your wall," said Wink founder and CTO Nathan Smith, noting that the Relay can already control popular smart-home gadgets like Philips Hue LEDs and the Nest Learning Thermostat, and now costs hundreds less than it did when back when we reviewed it at the start of 2015.
As for the Uber integration, which lets you hail a ride with a single tap, then monitor the car's info as it heads your way, Smith calls it a central part of Wink's evolution after getting sold off by its original parent company, Quirky.
"The next step is we want to go beyond the smart home and bring Wink to a new level that offers a little more appeal even for people who might be outside of the smart home community," Smith said.
Smith also points out that you'll be able to monitor your incoming ride even if you order it from your phone or from another Uber access point, like the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Smith made sure to paint a contrast between the Echo's always-listening Alexa smarts and the passive, always-on display of the Relay.
"You don't really want a voice assistant piping in every two minutes with updates on your ride," Smith said, "To have sort of a glanceable interface is really nice."
That "glanceability" comes into play for Fitbit users, too. Thanks to the new integration with Wink, you'll be able to see things like your progress toward your daily steps goal right on the Relay's home screen. As for the integration with IFTTT ("if this, then that"), the idea is that you'll be able to use either of the two physical buttons on the Relay to trigger your automation recipes -- less glanceable than accessible, but still a nice touch that helps the Relay stay on par with the Belkin WeMo Switch, which offers a similar trick on IFTTT.
Wink's final announcement is the arrival of a long-promised intercom mode that makes use of the microphone and speaker already built into each Relay. That means that if you've got multiple Wink Relays in your home -- one upstairs and one downstairs, for instance -- you'll be able to tap on one unit to talk with someone at the other.
All of it -- the intercom functionality and the integrations with Uber, Fitbit and IFTTT -- is available to Wink Relay owners starting today.