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Commentary Smart Home

Amazon bought Ring months ago. Why don't their products work together yet?

Commentary: Amazon should look to Google and Nest to see how to handle Ring.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I just reviewed the $199 Ring Alarm Security Kit -- a solid home security system from Amazon's recently acquired smart home brand. Ring's existing video doorbells and weatherproof security cameras work with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, but its new security system doesn't. 

You also can't use Amazon's excellent indoor-only Cloud Cam security camera as a component in the Ring security system, and Amazon's Key in-home delivery service doesn't integrate with any Ring devices. That's a mistake.

Amazon should pay close attention to how Google's handling Nest. Google's smart speakers and most of Nest's smart home products work together. The recent departure of former Nest CEO Marwan Fawaz puts Google executive Rishi Chandra in charge of the smart-home brand. Having a Google employee running Nest strongly suggests a closer alignment between Google and Nest hardware in the future.

If Amazon and Ring were to take a similar approach, it would be much easier for consumers to understand where both companies stand in the smart-home space -- and how their products could work together in their homes. As it is, you have two fairly segmented brands, both with a variety of smart home devices that don't currently work seamlessly together. 

Here's what Amazon needs to do to fix it.

What Google and Nest are doing right

Google's smart speakers, the Google Home, the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max, all have voice integrations with the following Nest devices:

If you're using a Nest security camera, for instance, you can ask your Google smart speaker to "Play your backyard camera on the living room TV." You'll need a Google Chromecast-enabled display for this voice command to work (in addition to a Nest camera and a Google speaker). The Nest Cam IQ Indoor security camera also doubles as a Google speaker, so you can use it to ask general questions, as well as to control various smart devices in your home. 

You can ask Google to arm your Nest Secure alarm system, or to give you a system status update. You can even instruct Google to "cancel security" if you change your mind seconds after arming your system with a previous voice command. 

Ring doorbells work with Alexa in much the same way as Nest cameras with Google Assistant. You can say, "Alexa, show me the front door camera" to view the camera's live feed on an Amazon Echo Show or with a Fire TV Stick, but no Ring products have built-in Alexa speakers. And Ring's security system still doesn't work with Alexa at all. 

You can also control the temperature of Nest thermostats with a Google speaker. Ask Google for the current temperature in your home, or to make it warmer or cooler. You can specify "68 degrees" or ask Google to "raise the temperature two degrees," too.

The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector and the Nest x Yale lock don't currently work with Google's voice assistant, Google Assistant, but Nest plans to make voice integrations available with the Nest smart lock.

Aside from offering a lot of integrations in general, Nest also makes it easy to add them. On this support page, Nest clearly outlines which devices work with Google Assistant, how to connect them and how to use the integrations once they're connected. It's straightforward and sets up a clear understanding of how Google and Nest smart-home devices work together. That isn't the case with Amazon and Ring. It should be. 

Amazon's Cloud Cam should work with Ring's Alarm system

When I asked Ring whether its indoor security system worked with Amazon's Cloud Cam indoor security camera, I got the following response:

"Ring Alarm does not work with Amazon Cloud Cam at this time. While I can't comment on the roadmap at this time, what I can tell you is that we will make product decisions based on what will best empower Neighbors with an affordable, effective way to monitor their homes."

The Ring Alarm Security Kit and the Amazon Cloud Cam should absolutely work together. 

Ring's current lineup includes the following products:

All of these devices, except for the Ring Alarm Security Kit, are weatherproof, and designed from the start to be used outdoors. Incorporating an indoor-only camera from Amazon into the mix that works with Alexa would be a obvious move to round out Ring's current offerings, but it doesn't work that way, and there are no stated plans to integrate the two.

Amazon Key should work with Ring doorbells 

Amazon Key is Amazon's in-home delivery service. Part of the service includes buying and installing two pieces of required hardware -- an Amazon Cloud Cam for monitoring the deliveries inside your home and an Amazon-approved smart lock (there are several options to choose from) to which you can assign a virtual, time-limited key to an Amazon-registered delivery service provider. 

Note if you're shopping for a Cloud Cam: There's a slight difference between the basic Amazon Cloud Cam and the Amazon Key edition of the Cloud Cam.

Once the Amazon Key Cloud Cam and lock are installed and configured in the Amazon Key app, you can have packages delivered inside your home. 

A Ring doorbell is an obvious addition. Keep a Cloud Cam for inside monitoring, use an Amazon-approved smart lock for access -- and then use your Ring doorbell for outside monitoring. It seems like a no-brainer, but it isn't an option. 

Ring's Alarm system should work with Alexa

Ring's Alarm Security Kit doesn't work with any of the major voice assistants, despite being owned by Amazon.

In contrast:

I really like Ring's security system, and one of its selling points is its simplicity. Even so, its lack of voice integrations is baffling. Being able to say, "Alexa, arm my alarm system" is a basic feature at this point for any DIY home security setup.

Given that Ring was slow to introduce its security system, the team had plenty of time to add Alexa voice control as an optional feature for folks with Amazon smart speakers

Still waiting

Amazon announced its Ring acquisition back in February and closed the deal in April, and we're still waiting for them to work together across their device portfolios. That's a shame since there's so much opportunity for integration -- on both sides.

Bundling an Amazon Cloud Cam with a Ring Alarm Security Kit as an optional accessory would give Ring's security system the one piece of hardware it's sorely missing. Letting Ring doorbells work with Amazon's in-home delivery service could add another layer of security and help keep an eye on your front door if a package has to be left outside for any reason. Giving the Ring security system support for basic Alexa voice commands is a huge missed opportunity.

It needs these features to compete with Nest, even if it's only at the most basic level. 

Overall, keeping Ring too separate from Amazon makes little strategic sense. If Ring's security system won't work with the Amazon Cloud Cam, is Ring going to introduce its own competing indoor camera? Or will Ring's security system simply not have an indoor cam? 

It's still early in the Amazon-Ring marriage, but the competition from Nest and Google is strong. Amazon has an advantage in the smart home category, thanks to Alexa showing consumers the benefits of voice control, but Google Assistant is catching up. With the momentum behind Google Assistant, and Nest's ever-expanding product lineup, if Amazon doesn't get organized with Ring and put together a more complete offering, it risks squandering its lead. 

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