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Amazon Alexa smart home

Amazon's voice-controlled digital assistant is well-versed in home automation.

Updated

What is Alexa?

Alexa is a virtual personal assistant developed by Amazon for its Echo line of smart speakers. Alexa is also available through the Amazon app for iOS and Android, as well as on third-party hardware.

Using cloud-based voice recognition algorithms, Alexa can understand and act upon a variety of spoken commands: from reading news headlines to playing music and adjusting the brightness of your home’s smart lights.

How can Alexa control my smart home?

Any Alexa-enabled device can be used as a central hub for automating your smart home. Tell Alexa to “discover my appliances,” and she’ll scan your home Wi-Fi network for compatible smart devices and add them to her internal register. You can then ask Alexa to “turn on the hallway lights” or “stream House of Cards on the living room TV” instead of manually controlling each smart device through separate apps.

For most smart home devices, you’ll need to enable the relevant Alexa Skill before Alexa can control the device. Alexa Skills are self-contained updates that expand Alexa’s capabilities, allowing her to perform functions she can’t out of the box. To enable a particular Skill, search through the Skills section of the Alexa mobile app or browse the Alexa Skills store on Amazon’s website.

Some smart home devices aren’t directly compatible with Alexa and require a separate hub to enable voice control. Kwikset smart locks, for instance, will only work with Alexa via Samsung SmartThings hub, a Wink Hub or an Iris smart hub.

Once Alexa and your smart home devices are chatting with each other, you can create groups and scenes through the Amazon mobile app to further automate your home. Groups tie multiple smart devices together. For example, you could combine the smart locks for your front and back doors into the “all doors” group to secure your house with a single command.

Scenes are similar to groups, except they let you specify different actions for Alexa to perform with each device. A “bedtime” scene, for example, could include locking the front door, turning off the living room lights and turning up the heat in your bedroom. However, scenes need to be imported from an existing smart home hub or a specific device’s app.

What smart devices does Alexa work with?

Alexa is compatible with a variety of lights, locks, security cameras, thermostats, power outlets and many other smart devices. Devices that support Alexa carry the “Works with Amazon Alexa” badge:

Some of the most popular Alexa-compatible product lines include:

Alexa can also control Haiku ceiling fans, Logitech Harmony remotes and select Sony Bravia TVs.

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