When talking about smart homes, you often come across phrases like “Supports Alexa” or “Google Assistant included”. What you are talking about then are the digital assistants that you can control with voice commands to, for example, play music, listen to the news or control smart devices in your home. Instead of picking up the phone and clicking on an app, you simply say what you want to happen (“Alexa, play my relax-playlist on Spotify”).
These voice assistants are built into smartphones and smart speakers, among other things. The most common assistants on the market today are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri.
Here, we will present Alexa, what that assistant has for features and uses as well as how to use it to control your smart home.
Amazon rewrote the rules of e-commerce, but they are also pioneers when it comes to smart speakers and digital assistants. Amazon has developed the Echo speakers themselves with the built-in assistant Alexa.
This has become a great success internationally and currently, there are many different kinds of devices that are compatible with Alexa. Amazon is working hard to develop support for more languages.
Like other smart speakers and digital assistants, Alexa listens to your commands. The most common starting word is precisely Alexa, but it can also get it to respond to Echo, Amazon, and Computer. When you say Alexa, the assistant will respond and listen for your command (a blue ring will also light up on the Echo speaker to show that it is ready). Then you just have to say what you want to happen, for example, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the kitchen and play the news”. Some examples of what Alexa can do are:
- Play music, for example from Spotify
- Play news, weather, etc.
- Shop on Amazon
- Make lists, such as shopping and to-do lists
- Manage, read, and add events to your calendar
- Use as an alarm clock, timer or reminder
- Control smart devices in your home, such as smart lighting, thermostats, monitoring, TV and more.
- Alexa also manages to differentiate between different voices, so that each person in the family can receive an individual and personal service. For example, if someone says “Alexa, is it on my schedule for today?”, Alexa hears who it is that asks and selects the right calendar for that particular person.
One of the most useful features of Alexa is that it can run its own apps. Something that Amazon calls skills. Currently, there are over 80,000 skills developed by both Amazon and other developers to give Alexa more functionality and more uses. It is precisely the range and breadth of skills that makes Alexa such a popular and versatile assistant. Just like with apps, there is a wide range of skills from the more serious ones, who give you news, sports results, stock market prices, recipes, etc., to those who are the most fun, like various Quiz, games and the funny skill Meow talking to your cat with the man. Some of the most popular differences are, for example:
- 7-minute workout
There are also many useful skills for managing devices in your smart home and productivity skills that can be used in the job.
To add a skill to your device, just go to Amazon’s skills page and click on “Enable skill”. If you know what the difference is, you can ask your Echo unit to run it directly. In principle, all skills are free and new features are added all the time.
It is possible to get a lot of fun, entertainment and convenience from Alexa, but because it is such a popular and multi-faceted solution, many smart home products are compatible with and easily controlled via Alexa. Among other things, smart devices from Sonos, Google Nest, IKEA Wireless, Philips Hue and WeMo are able to connect with Alexa. Here are some other devices and accessories that work with Alexa:
- D-Link’s smart wall socket
- Ring surveillance cameras and video ringing clocks
- Surveillance cameras
- Surveillance cameras and thermostats
- Robot vacuum cleaner
- Samsung SmartThings hub
- Fitbit Charge
Connecting your smart devices to Alexa
Install your smart device (lighting, wall socket, camera, etc.) and connect it to the same network as Alexa.
Open the Alexa app and select Add Device. Then follow the instructions to pair the unit.
Add your own skills
You can also add units via skills. Then you go into the menu and select Skills, find the skill associated with your device and click Enable. Then you can tell Alexa; “Discover my devices” the device is automatically found. Of course, you can do it manually as well. The advantage of installing the device through skills is that your smart gadget is automatically linked to your Amazon account.
Once the smart device is installed, you can rename it. This is good if you have several different units in the same room and they are given the same name during installation, for example, “living room lighting”. Then you go to Devices – Settings – Edit Name, and rename them for example “lamp on the sofa”, “lighting behind the TV” etc.
One of the many skills that can be added is IFTT (If This Then That). That is, the site where you have gathered a large number of routines where several functions are combined. For example, with a single command, you can start your morning by turning on the news, lighting the hall and activating the smart wall socket where the coffee maker is connected. There you can find lots of good and effective routines for the smart home.
More features and languages
Internationally, Echo and Amazon Alexa are one of the most common smart speakers with digital assistant. This means that there will be more and more smart products compatible with Alexa, and the range of functions and skills is also increasing rapidly.