We’ve all seen the commercials and know that Amazon Echo is shaping up to be quite the new home automation device. You can ask its cloud-based voice service, Alexa, just about anything and you can use the device as an incredible speaker for your music. While this was impressive, it wasn’t enough to convince me to invest in an Amazon Echo. However, the latest announcement has me reconsidering.
In late August, SmartThings announced it is now compatible with Amazon Echo. This means you can use Amazon Echo as a voice-controllable device to control your home (and any device that works with SmartThings). Let’s say you have a SmartThings hub and SmartThings outlet. Connect your lamp to the outlet and your SmartThings hub to your Amazon Echo. Now, you can simply say, “Alexa, turn on the lamp,” or “Alexa, dim the lamp to 25%” and Amazon Echo will do your bidding.
I don’t know about you, but this is how I imagined home automation and the very reason to invest in smart technology. I am already a fan of SmartThings because you can make just about any device or item “smart” and control it from the SmartThings app on your phone. Amazon Echo goes a step further and makes all of this so much more futuristic and, well, cool and simple. With Amazon Echo, you don’t even need to open the SmartThings app and click on the icon that controls your lamp across the room. You can simply command Alexa to do it for you. And with Amazon Echo’s multiple microphones, beam-forming technology, and wake word, you don’t have to speak directly into the device. Alexa can hear you anywhere within the room, even if there is music playing in the background.
SmartThings isn’t the only company that has taught Alexa how to control their products. Amazon Echo also works well with Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, and Wink devices. With Wink and Echo, you can connect with your smart home products, such as their lighting. Belkin WeMo integrated their switches and plugs with Alexa so you can control a number of home electronics, from computers to fans. And Philips Hue smart lighting can be controlled with Alexa. You can ask Alexa to turn the light on or off, to dim or brighten, and you create an ideal light setting for the occasion or mood, like a party or romantic dinner.
And no, that’s not all. Amazon Echo is also compatible with some of your other favorite brands. You can stream music from Pandora, listen to audiobooks from Audible, access your Google Calendar, find out live sports scores and traffic reports, re-order Amazon.com items, and more. As I write this, I am sure Amazon will be adding to this list as it continues to add more capabilities.
While I may not have been so impressed with Amazon Echo at first, the integration with Samsung’s SmartThings and other home automation companies has pushed Amazon Echo to the top of my must-have-home-automation list.
Photo by: Pierre Lecourt