Just as the universal remote simplifies home theater equipment, Amazon Alexa voice control brings smart home devices together — and there’s no need to find the remote. For those who are discovering how diverse smart home technology is, knowing that Amazon Alexa is ready to take their commands will cause a sigh of relief.
Introducing the Echo
The Amazon Echo, a simple, round interactive speaker with Alexa’s voice, has sold over six million units in the United States. Owners of these discs are telling Alexa to adjust lighting, open curtains, lock the door, play some music, close the garage door and even tell a joke. Alexa can also use programmed Alexa skills. These do many of the app-based activities users used to do on their smartphones, like order a pizza or an Uber ride. Skills are also provided to support new Alexa-enabled appliances and hardware.
Alexa is Everywhere
Portable Alexa is available for smartphones and tablets, and there’s a version for the car. It’s a popular add-on for wireless speaker systems, soundbars and televisions. Implementations are available for wall switches and shower heads, too.
Excellent at hearing commands across a room, Alexa is especially helpful when you have your hands full or for the visually impaired or seniors. Here are some of the places users can find Alexa ready and waiting to help.
As the most popular room in the home, the Alexa-enabled kitchen provides an example of how devices work with this technology. Voice-operated, intelligent equipment not only allows people to multitask in the kitchen, it also helps seniors and disabled people simplify their lives.
Just Say “Start Cooking”
Whirlpool’s smart microwave takes instructions from a smartphone app or through Alexa. It follows multi-step cooking processes and adjusts time and temperature based on each recipe, cooking for the best results. The company’s smart range works similarly, taking over cooking while a busy family gets ready for mealtime.
Simplify Cooking, Freeing the Chef to Multitask
Working with Yummly, a recipe app, the Whirlpool smart range follows cooking instructions for the chosen recipe. For store-bought food, users scan the UPC barcode, and the range sets up to follow the instructions.
Verbal commands to Alexa can start cooking, keep the food warm, play music and check tomorrow’s weather. Whirlpool offers connected appliances, which work together with each other over Wi-Fi to manage energy use, work quickly when the owner is waiting and more efficiently when there’s time and respond to Alexa commands for each other.
Appliances Huddle for Best Results
LG’s InstaView smart refrigerator, with a transparent touchscreen, displays and keeps track of the food inside and responds to Alexa commands. Using LG’s ThinQ system, it connects with compatible cooking and dishwashing equipment, preparing them for their share of the work. It also connects with entertainment, shared online calendars and even travel planning apps using Alexa.
Kohler’s smart mirror conceals Alexa functionality in a lighted bathroom mirror. It adjusts the LED lighting, glows gently as a night light when it senses motion and provides the usual amenities such as playing music, checking schedules and traffic and adding shampoo to the shopping list.
Moen has incorporated Alexa in U, a voice-enabled showerhead assembly. Shower-specific commands set the temperature, pause the flow and time the shower length.
In the Garage
Garageio and many other products provide control of garage doors from Echo or other Alexa-based products. Amazon has added security features to Alexa to ensure that only authorized users can control the garage door by voice.
Light Switches and Thermostats
Alexa has found a discreet and useful home in intelligent light switches and thermostats. Lutron’s Caseta product line intelligently coordinates house lighting, window shades and room temperature. In each switch and control, Alexa awaits commands to turn on the sound system, place a call or order a pizza.
Alexa Skills for Almost Anything
Amazon Alexa consolidates control of smart home devices under a single, voice-operated umbrella. Alexa skills allow users to control devices from various manufacturers throughout their home. With the help of an integration consultant, users can go further and combine Alexa-compatible devices into lifestyle commands such as “Alexa, prepare for bedtime,” which might cause the lights to dim and extinguish when motion is no longer sensed, light music to be played, home locks to trigger and a sensor to check the garage door and close it if needed. Even better, Amazon Alexa integrates with PointCentral’s smart home automation solutions, too.
These new Alexa products join many new and existing products, including those for security and home entertainment. Alexa-compatible devices let users integrate each new device as they update their home or remodel with an overall plan to add intelligence to their home. Instead of an eclectic collection of smart equipment, their Alexa-based home will welcome and respond to family, friends, and relatives, naturally.
Dave Maddox is a technical consultant and freelance writer with experience in control systems and information technology.