One of the biggest features I enjoy with the Amazon Echo is the functionality it brings to home automation. After all, that is a focus here are SHA. We went through skills and how Amazon uses them to add additional functionality to Alexa. I highlighted some of the skills that were available in the smart home
category. There were quite a lot. All of the skills from smart home device companies had very good ratings to compliment their availability. The use of adding Skills to enable smart home functionality are new as of around April of this year.
When I first began using my Wink hub and then shortly after the Amazon Echo. Adding a smart hub to the mix was a little different. You would open the app, go to the smart home section and select the smart hub you would like to connect to the Echo. There were 4 or 5 at the time if I remember. Once the hub was selected, you are prompted to log into your smart home hub account and a connection would be made to the Echo.
The app and website today leverage the feature of installing skills to enable features like the Wink smart hub. This will be great as the amount of smart home skills grows for the Amazon Echo.
There are a fair amount of users who stumble into home automation products and start to deploy them through out there house without a smart hub to bring them all together. The Amazon Echo can work great for those users as well.
As long as there is a skill available to support the device, you can add it to your Echo and access it with voice commands. After you install the skill getting the Echo to find the devices is as simple as everything else.
One easy command, Alexa, scan for new devices. Alexa will quickly respond with an OK, scanning for new devices. Alexa will inform you this could take up to 20 seconds. She will also inform you that if you are adding Philips Hue lighting, make sure that the pairing button on the bridge is activated.
A few seconds later, Alexa will announce how many devices she has found.
I was very pleased that Alexa reached out to my Wink hub and pulled out all 22 connected devices. The Echo quickly found everything from the Nest Thermostat to all of my connected bulbs and switches.
When using voice control, the Speed of response is very nice. There was perhaps a second or less of delay. Issuing commands, as with a lot of my experience with the Echo was easy and intuitive. As soon as Alexa reported she has found my devices I started blurting out commands:
- Alexa, turn the table lights on
- Alexa turn the porch light on
- Alexa turn all lights off
- Alexa, set the dinning room to 72 degrees
With each command Alexa simply responds with an OK, and it happens. The Echo imported all the names and was ready to go. There were a couple times that I didn’t frame the statement right, or maybe I mumbled. Alexa would just say she didn’t understand that command. Or that she didn’t know how to help me with that request.
You also have the option to create groups and select which devices should be in that group. That was a great way for me to create the Movie group to shut off a selected set of lights in and around the living room.
I have found the echo to be an invaluable piece of my home automation system. If you are also a Fire TV user, you can use your Fire TV voice remote, then issue commands to Alexa when she is out of ear shot. This is interesting, as she will respond through the TV, same voice as in the Echo. You can also request her to play music through the remote on the Fire TV.
I was hoping to be able to control more of my Fire TV with voice, I wanted my movie group, to turn off lights and start content playing from Netflix or Amazon Prime when requested. That’s not possible yet. I am sure there is a skill in the works to make this part of the Alexa library. If not perhaps they will read this and get started on that. I am sure I am not the only one.
Keep reading on as we sum up this review in the next section and go over all the key points of The Amazon Echo and its feature set.