Meet our newest GMG team member, Alexa! She’s sure great at making life easier at home and in the office! Our Amazon Echo has been a mainstay in our kitchen since Thomas became a beta user before it launched in 2015. We mostly use it for music, kitchen timers and conversions of cooking units, but it can do so much more. Alexa, the brain and voice behind the Echo, has helped us settle debates (she’s great at fact checking), in addition to making sure we don’t burn the frozen pizza. Recently, Amazon launched the Echo Plus which looks exactly like the original model, but specifically packs two new upgrades we are most excited about. Our Echo is the most frequently used music device in our house, so the improved speakers on the Echo Plus are a welcome addition. The other major addition is the ability to act as a smart home hub to turn on and off lights, control smart outlets, smart thermostats and so much more.
We set up our new Echo Plus between our desks in our office and use it throughout the day in various ways. We replaced all of the lights, including the overhead lights in the room, with Philips Hue smart light bulbs, which are Alexa compatible. In addition, we plugged in a couple of smart outlets to control our Christmas tree lights, hot water kettle and standing fan. We have an Echo in each room of our office, and with the drop-in feature, we can use the devices as intercoms. We are currently leasing our office space where we installed the Echo Plus, so we chose not to install smart devices we couldn’t take with us, should we decide to move offices. However, in our new house, we are installing Nest Thermostats and Sonos speakers, so we look forward to turning it into a smart home as well!
Smart home setup can be tough, so we were pleasantly surprised about how easy all of the smart devices were to setup. As long as they are turned on and in range, all you have to do is say “Alexa, discover my devices,” and in less than a minute, they are added to your system. Within the Alexa app, you can simply change the names on those new devices to easily communicate your directions. After editing the names of your devices, sort them by groups that make sense to you, such as by room. For example, you could group all your kitchen lights together and say “Alexa, turn on the lights” rather than trying to remember a specific name like “Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead lamp.”
One of the coolest features is the ability to set routines. With routines, Alexa triggers actions that cater to that routine, such as when you get back home, go to bed or start your day. In the routines Alexa can turn on and off smart home devices, read flash news briefings, and report the weather or traffic, among other additional settings. For example, you could say “Alexa, good morning,” and Alexa will turn on the kitchen lights, start your tea kettle and read you the weather and your flash briefing.
Alexa becomes smarter over time and consistently has new feature updates. When Thomas first purchased our Echo, he wrote in a product recommendation, and within one week it was launched live to all Echo owners. Additionally, with Amazon’s interest in the smart home market, I can imagine more companies will focus on launching products compliant with Alexa in addition to the more than 1,000 that already do.
Echo and Alexa are popular, so chances are you may already have one. If that’s the case, you may still want to be in the market for the new Echo Plus, and consider shifting your previous Echo to another room.
Thank you to Amazon for sponsoring this post.