Johnson Controls Putting Cortana to Work in Smart Thermostat

GLAS, from HVAC vendor Johnson Controls, features Microsoft's voice-enabled virtual assistant and a translucent OLED screen.

Cortana Controls Thermostat

Cortana will soon be entering the smart thermostat arena. GLAS, from HVAC equipment vendor Johnson Controls, will use Microsoft's virtual assistant to allow people to set home environmental controls  via voice commands.

Powered by Windows 10 IoT Core, a lightweight version of the Windows operating system for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, GLAS can do more than create a comfortable indoor environment. It can help homeowners save money on their electric bills by adaptively adjusting temperature settings. GLAS automatically detects whether a residence is unoccupied or if someone is at home, switching between profiles (Home, Away and Sleeping) accordingly.

Temperature control may be GLAS' primary purpose, but Johnson Controls isn't letting Cortana's other skills go to waste.

In a Jan. 4 blog post, Microsoft partner group program manager Rushmi Malaviarachchi wrote that "Cortana can help you manage your calendar, inform you of traffic, answer questions, and more, so all of this information is on display in one place to help jumpstart your day before leaving the door. You can access GLAS on mobile, tablet or web browser, with mobile apps currently available to download for iOS and Android, and a Windows 10 app expected soon in the Microsoft Store."

Microsoft has been working on extending Cortana's reach beyond Windows 10 PCs.

In October 2017, Harman Kardon entered the increasingly crowded smart speaker market with Invoke, featuring the virtual assistant technology. The software giant is also exploring how to incorporate Cortana's voice-enabled intelligent services for connected cars.

Besides Cortana and Windows 10 IoT Hub, GLAS also relies another Microsoft technology, Azure IoT Hub. Johnson Controls is using the cloud-based service to manage GLAS devices in the wild.

One of the device's most striking features, a touch-enabled translucent OLED screen, gives new meaning to tech that blends into home decor. Readouts and controls appear to float off the wall GLAS is affixed to. Also on the hardware front, GLAS is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410E embedded system on chip with integrated WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

GLAS can also be used to monitor track air quality inside and outside the home.

Indoors, the thermostat generates readings on humidity, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide. When connected to the internet, it can generate an outdoor air quality report, including carbon monoxide and ozone levels. Users can also to keep an eye on grass and ragweed pollen counts, ultraviolet light index other environmental factors.

GLAS preorders start in March 2018 ahead of its first-quarter release. Buyers can expect to part with $319 for the smart thermostat.

GLAS won't be the only smart thermostat with voice functionality when it arrives later this year.

Although it lacks built-in voice control, the Nest thermostat from Google parent company Alphabet Inc., integrates with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Ecobee 4 also supports Alexa and Google's voice assistant. Both devices were among eWEEK's best smart devices for the home in June 2017.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...