So, you bought an Amazon Alexa? Are you in Love yet? If so you’re in good company, as of writing over 12 million Alexa units have been shipped worldwide. But after the usual questions ‘Alexa what time is it’ or ‘Alexa bark like a dog’ is your Alexa nothing more than a glorified streaming device (albeit a lower quality one than competitor speakers like Sonos).
What you might not realise is the Amazon Alexa you have in your home is one of the most powerful SMART Home hubs currently available on the retail market and can do A LOT MORE than simply bark like a dog or play some Neil Diamond whenever you fancy it.
As SMART Home integrators, Walcom Integration have been witness to the rise in high end SMART Home functionality over the last 15 years and ultimately the simplification of that technology which at one time would have set you back thousands of pounds and now cost under a hundred!
To make sure you are getting the most from your Alexa SMART Home hub below we have identified some clever ways you can use your Alexa device to automate things around the home and make your life just that little bit easier.
Note: Yes, we know other brands are available and if you have one of those the same principals would apply but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the Amazon Alexa as that is the device we have tested.
To start with a few simple things you can do with Alexa without the need for 3rd party devices. The great thing about having Alexa around is that it’s almost like having a real assistant and there are ways to use your voice alone to increase productivity;
Timers & Alarms
Set alarms for waking up in the morning, timers for cooking or timers for productivity (60mins work before you can look at your phone).
Calculations & Currency Conversion
Need to make some quick calculations, ask Alexa, need to convert currency, measurements or scales, ask Alexa, need to find the definition of a word, ask…yeah you get it.
Read & Reply to Emails
Alexa can read emails from the last 24 hours from Gmail, Hotmail, Live, and Outlook accounts, and you can even send replies and delete them with your voice. There’s no native email support for Google Home smart speakers. How is this possible when Google makes Gmail?! I don’t know, but this very reason alone is why Alexa is the SMART Home platform king when it comes to productivity.
Alexa can also tap into your Google Calendar. It will pair great with the Echo Show 5 but one thing to note, they only pull from a main Google account’s calendar. G Suite, imported, and other calendars (like birthday and holiday calendars) aren’t supported.
To-do Lists & Notes
There are tons of Alexa skills to help you jot down ideas using voice commands like Todoist and My Notebookl. But we've found saying "Alexa, note this down" or "Alexa, create new note" is the simplest way to dictate a note for saving in the Alexa app. Same applies for to-do lists or say ‘Alexa add to shopping list’ so you know what shopping you need to buy each week.
Tips To Keep in Mind
Unless you’ve already done this before, I can promise you that setting up a SMART Home and getting all your devices to talk to one another will not go perfectly the first time. There’s always some troubleshooting to be done.
Stick to one platform — It might be tempting to bolt on other SMART Home platforms like Google Home to get the Google Assistant for things like search, but my advice is to hold off in the beginning. Otherwise, things get really chaotic if one part of your SMART Home breaks.
Simplify where possible — Some SMART Home devices require extra hubs of their own that need to be plugged into power or connected to your router. While these may have fancier features, for beginners, I recommend steering clear of these. Hubs add extra complexities to a SMART Home system and can be frustrating to troubleshoot if anything needs resetting later.
Protect your privacy — Look, reading terms and conditions is no fun. But if you’re at all worried about privacy, dig into it. Amazon lets you opt-out and delete voice recordings, which you can do within the Alexa app or use the command "Alexa, delete everything I said today." Alexa will become dumber and slower as a result, but the privacy may be worth it to you.