Alexa has become an important fixture and much-loved companion in many homes—playing your favorite songs, telling you the weather, or even controlling your smart home. With summer around the corner, Alexa is making it easy for customers to beat the heat, hands-free.

Household fans play an important part in staying cool and comfortable during the hot summer months, and now customers can control their Vornado fans using their voice and Alexa. Once the fan is connected to an Alexa device, simply tell the fan to turn on and oscillate according to the speed setting of your choice. Or you can create an Alexa Routine that automatically activates the fan for you and turns it off when you leave.

Unlock new experiences with Alexa Connect Kit

Vornado’s 660AE and OSCR37 AE electric fans work with Alexa with the help of Alexa Connect Kit, a service for device manufacturers that makes it easy to integrate Alexa into their products.

For Vornado, Alexa Connect Kit helped open a new chapter of possibilities for the company’s classic product lines by unlocking new customer experiences with smart technology and voice capabilities.

For guests staying at Scott Harlan's treehouse or visiting his "climb-in" theater in Washington state, Alexa-enabled devices light a path through the woods, fire up the hot tub, and trigger a unique breakfast delivery.

“We identified the significant role smart technology would play to enhance our customer’s experience nearly a decade ago, but we also knew that when we launched a solution, it had to be seamless,” said Vornado Vice President, Brian Cartwright who leads R&D and design. “We saw the opportunity to add Alexa to our products as a way to help us deliver comfort into people’s lives easily and with as much versatility as possible.”

Alexa Connect Kit makes voice integration simple

Vornado spent years reviewing the costs of developing smart solutions, but the company was unable to find an affordable option. The company was told it would take several years and a huge financial investment to get it right. Plus, additional investments in cloud services, new software, and security firmware would be needed to address bugs and stay up to date with changes in consumer technology.

“Depending on who you talk to, you can get a wide range of costs from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. We were basically stalled and couldn’t make a case for that kind of investment,” said Vornado Director, Greg Pease who leads R&D and engineering. “It wasn’t until Amazon approached us about Alexa Connect Kit that we saw a way to remove some of these barriers to entry.”

Until recently, integrating smart technologies into everyday devices was limited by several hurdles. Adding voice to a product required device makers to develop new components with Wi-Fi and processing power, in addition to software that controls their functions and connectivity.

Alexa Connect Kit simplifies the process with a compact module that enables cloud connectivity and voice control. It also includes the necessary back-end services so device makers don’t have to write special networking or security firmware, set up and manage cloud services, or develop an Alexa skill or app. The Alexa service then allows customers to operate the device by relaying voice commands to Alexa-enabled devices or through the Alexa app.

“Alexa Connect Kit, and the expertise and functionality that came along with it, really empowered us to strategically get where we wanted to go,” Pease said.

New to building connected devices? Amazon can help

Vornado’s success with Alexa Connect Kit began in October 2020, when the company started parallel development on two new products. The goal was to launch the devices at the same time in early 2021, but supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic caused significant delays.

“I can say without reservation that we might have been a few more years out from launching if a solution like Alexa Connect Kit hadn’t come around,” Pease said.

Paul Hegdahl, senior business development manager for Alexa Connect Kit, frequently works with product manufacturers facing similar difficulties. “Alexa Connect Kit is designed to help device makers simplify connected product development and bring products to market quickly,” he said. “With Alexa Connect Kit, we’re invested in supporting them through the whole process, from concept evaluation to post-launch product support.”

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After an initial meeting with Amazon in October, Pease was impressed by the speed of the development process. Vornado had been working with manufacturing partners that did not have the experience needed to integrate Alexa Connect Kit chips with Vornado’s existing circuit boards, but Amazon was able to introduce Vornado to several alternative vendors to get the process started. “The way the team worked with us and helped us find partners to bring these products to life has just been absolutely phenomenal. It makes it so easy for us,” Pease said.

From there, Amazon coordinated the product development work with the manufacturing partner that was integrating the hardware, which allowed Vornado to take on more of a project management and quality assurance role. Within months, Vornado was ready to launch the 660AE—the company’s first voice-controlled product—by July 2021. The Alexa Connect Kit-enabled oscillating tower fan, the OSCR37 AE, followed just two weeks later.

Vornado was also thrilled to announce its products carried both Works with Alexa and Certified for Humans certifications. “It provides that extra layer of credibility for customers,” said Cartwright. “It was a nice bonus on top of the other support we received from Amazon’s business development and marketing team to promote our products.”

Recent sales of Vornado’s new Alexa-enabled products have been “outstanding,” added Cartwright, and Vornado is excited about continuing to build great customer experiences. “Alexa Connect Kit gave us the level of expertise we needed to be successful and allowed us to focus on doing what we do best—it was a no brainer,” Pease said.