My love for electronics runs long and deep. Growing up, we were one of the only families I knew that had a computer in their home. I blame my dad; big tech geek. If he were alive today, I think he’d be amazed how far we have come. With all the advances in the voice control assistant and home automation, there is no doubt I’ve jumped on the ban wagon and luckily, the Amazon Echo can help me out with all my Home Automation needs and then some.
What is the Amazon Echo?
The Amazon Echo may look like a large, cylinder shaped speaker but it’s so much more. Yes, you can connect your bluetooth enabled device and listen to your favorite music but the best part is that it has a voice controlled assistant named Alexa and she’s super smart. She has 7 microphones that can hear you no matter where you are in your home so she is also a really good listener. When you connect her to wifi using the Amazon Alexa app for IOS and Android, you can ask her questions like,
- Alexa, What’s today weather?
- Alexa, How many cups or in a gallon?
Pretty much anything you can search on the web, Alexa can give you the answer. You can also set timers, alarms, tell her to put things on your to do list or even items on your shopping list.
My favorite way to use her it to control my Philips Hue light bulbs, my Nest thermostat, and even turning my TV on and off with my Harmony remote via IFTT. Here is how I used her the first week I received her.
And so it begins,,,
After plugging her in, it was super easy to connect her to my home wifi with the Alexa app. After the initial setup which took maybe 10 mins, she was ready to go. Since I have Amazon Prime and Prime music which has over 100,000 songs you can stream, I asked her to play some Prime music. She can just play a station or you can specify a genre, an artist, or even ask for an album if it’s available. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, Alexa can also stream from Pandora, I heart music, and Spotify!
No doubt I asked a bunch of dumb question because she was my new shiny toy and I wanted to see just how well she worked. She didn’t miss a beat. It’s crazy how fast she would come back with answers to any of my questions.
As the day turned to night, I setup my thermostat and lights; which was simple. Alexa scanned for the devices and boom they were ready to use with voice activation. I set up groups for my lights which is living room and bedroom. I also set up a group so I can turn off all the lights with one command.
I also went ahead and setup some recipes in IFTTT commands I could use with Alexa. In case you aren’t familiar with IFTTT it stand for, If this than that. It a web based service used for creating conditional statements. The first I chose was to have Alexa turn my tv on and off via Harmony remote. Not just turning the tv on and off but I can chose the activity I want it to do. For example,
- Alexa, trigger Apple TV
Trigger is the word you use so Alexa knows you want her to send the command to IFTTT. A moment later, all my tv devices come on and I’m ready to watch. The second recipe I created was to have IFTTT call my cellphone when I can’t find where I left it in the house. So all I have to say is, “Alexa, trigger find my phone” and she’ll respond back, “Sending that to IFTTT”. Now all I do it wait to hear my phone ringing.
So how do I use her in a typical day?
When I wake up in the morning and walk into the kitchen I say,
- Alexa, Good Morning
She’ll respond with “Good Morning, Today is ___(she’ll usually tell me if today is a holiday or a day like, National Donut Day, or International Yoga Day)” She will also tell me what today’s temperature is and the the days forecast. As I prepare my breakfast, I’ll ask her for my flash briefing. The flash briefing is a list of news channels I setup in the Alexa App. She’ll go through each one with today’s headline news and I’ll listen while I eat breakfast at my kitchen table.
In the afternoon after I’ve finish working my blogs to do list, I’ll usually go through my fridge and cabinets looking for items I might need to get at the grocery store. All I have to say is,
- Alexa, add _____ to my shopping list
She’s respond back with what I asked her to add and it will be on my shopping list inside the Alexa App. During the week when I realize I need something, I just ask Alexa to add it to the list. She can also make “to do” list for you as well.
When I return from grocery shopping, I usually clean my house. Alexa makes my chores more enjoyable by playing music for me. It’s built in speaker is super clear and room filling. So if I’m in the kitchen or living room I can always hear my favorite tunes. She can already play musics from Prime music, Pandora, Spotify, I Heart Music but many, many more services are still to come in the future. I can also connect my iPhone via Bluetooth and list to my iTunes music. I just have to say,
- Alexa, play my hits playlist from Pandora
- Alexa, play some Prime music
I can also listen to my books I’m reading with Audible or if there are books in my Kindle Library I can ask Alexa to read them. I don’t recommend this, I love her but her voice can get annoying after some time.
Later in the afternoon when all my chores are done, I may want to watch some TV for an hour or so.
- Alexa, trigger Watch TV
and in a few seconds, my TV and all the devices connected turn on for me. I could setup in IFTT for tell Alexa to change to certain channels but by this point my sitting down with the remote so I don’t feel a need to do this. I only like to watch or play my Playstation 4 for an a hour or so. I’m not the best with time management so I ask Alexa to set an alarm for an hour to remind me, it’s time to stop watching and do something else.
- Alexa, Set and alarm for one hour from now
In the evening, thanks to IFTT, my lights come on automatically at sun down but sometimes if I’m doing something, I like them to come on before that.
- Alexa, Turn all the lights on
I have 7 Hue light bulbs, 2 in my bedroom 5 in the living room. I also have 2 stand alone spot lights and a light stripe that all go by the TV. Every one of them comes on when I say “All Lights” but if I just wanted them on in the bedroom only, I can do that via a small setup with the Alexa App. I’m also able to make them dim by saying,
- Alexa, dim the lights to 50%
She’ll do so and say, “Ok” when the task is complete.
When it’s time for bed, I’ll say,
- Alexa, All lights off
- Alexa, set the Hallway thermostat to 70 degrees
You’ll see all the light turn off and she’ll say her signature, ok. I usually follow with
- Alexa, Good Night
She’s return the favor by saying, “Good Night” and may add, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
My Final Thoughts
In closing, I absolutely love my Amazon Echo. I was afraid I wouldn’t use her as much as I do but she has so many practical uses it’s almost impossible not to use her. More and more features will be added in the future and there are many I didn’t even touch on in this post. Did I mention she can call you an Uber and order you a pizza with just a voice command? That’s pretty awesome. One more feature I will be adding in the future is ordering products that I use most from Amazon. All I have to do is ask her to order it and it’s done. Amazon Echo is priced at $179.
Do you think you might purchase an Amazon Echo?