Amazon invested in Canadian smart thermostat startup Ecobee via its Alexa Fund meant to foster innovation in the smart home segment, the Toronto-based company revealed earlier this week. The exact amount of the tech giant's commitment remains unclear, though the series C funding round in which it participated raised CAD $80 million, i.e. $61.8 million in total. The extra cash injected into Ecobee will be primarily used for diversifying its operations, Chief Executive Officer Stuart Lombard told CNBC. The startup is ultimately looking to offer a comprehensive smart home ecosystem spanning a broad range of products, with Internet-enabled thermostats being just the first category it decided to tackle.
Ecobee is now preparing for a release of the Switch+, a Wi-Fi light controller which will be compatible with Alexa. The Ecobee 4 thermostat can also communicate with Amazon's artificial intelligence assistant but ships with compatibility for other solutions as well. The firm is hoping to convince more consumers to consider its products by offering them with no compatibility strings attached, thus delivering Internet of Things hardware that can easily be implemented into any existing setup or serve as the starting point for a new system. That diversified and inclusive approach to product design also influenced Ecobee's distribution strategy, with its offerings presently being sold by everyone from Amazon and Best Buy to Lowe's, Home Depot, and Apple.
Amazon's financial injection into Ecobee comes mere days after the company acquired smart doorbell startup Ring for a reported $1 billion, delivering yet another indicator of its growing ambitions in the consumer electronics and AI segments. The e-commerce juggernaut is planning to leverage the technologies of its newly acquired firm to directly compete with Google's Nest whose products will soon be pulled from Amazon, deepening the discord between the two technology giants. Ecobee showed no firm signs that it would be prepared to sell in the foreseeable future but Amazon's investment in the startup makes that scenario a possibility, especially given how one of its current backers — Energy Impact Partners — also previously invested in Ring, thus already having a history of being bought off by the Seattle-based company.