What role does Amazon play in your smart home?
The smart speaker with Amazon Alexa as the center of your smart home.
7 January 2019
You've probably seen or heard the phrases 'Works with Apple HomeKit', 'Works with the Google Assistant' and 'Works with Amazon Alexa' or 'Just ask Alexa'. The main question which we’re going to answer in this article is what can you do with Amazon Alexa and what role can Amazon play in your smart home?
Introducing new Amazon products
In countries like America and England, smart devices such as the Amazon Echo are extremely popular. According to recent research by Canalys, the Amazon Echo has a market share of 50 percent worldwide. The Echo Show is for example Amazons smart display, the Echo Dot and Echo Plus are the smart speakers and the Echo Sub is the subwoofer. The company also announced the Echo Input, Echo Link, Echo Link Amp, the Echo Auto, a voice-controlled microwave, and the Echo Wall Clock as an extension of the existing portfolio of smart products with the integrated Alexa assistant.
What is Alexa?
Alexa is the virtual assistant of Amazon and is named after the world-famous library of Alexandria. This smart assistant was first used by the smart Echo and Echo Dot speakers from Amazon. It is similar to Siri from Apple, the Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana. You activate this digital assistant by talking to it, Alexa will understand what you are saying and then converts it into an action.
How does Alexa work?
To activate the speaker you have the choice of four code words: Alexa, Echo, Amazon or Computer. Alexa currently speaks English, German, French and Japanese, but is available in 81 countries around the world. You can ask Alexa to play music, set alarms or request information. You can also use Alexa voice commands to control other smart devices that have been paired. Amazon is working hard to increase the number of products that Alexa is integrated with, it currently works in some cars, robots, refrigerators and watches. The ecosystem of suppliers who work with Amazon is vast and constantly expanding.
What are Alexa Skills?
Alexa can communicate with other smart devices with so-called Alexa Skills. These are programmed skills and there are currently more than 30,000 Alexa Skills. These skills are subdivided into groups, such as: Smart Home Skills (operating your smart home), Flash Briefing Skills (letting information read aloud) and Custom Skills (interactions with other systems). You decide which skills you add to your Alexa in the corresponding apps from Amazon. Many suppliers of smart devices make their own Alexa Skill, so their seamlessly integration with Alexa.
What can you do with Amazon in your smart home?
Most of Alexa Skills have been developed with your smart home in mind. The number of skills is rising rapidly everyday which is the reason that you see the text 'Works with Amazon Alexa' on many devices. Consider, for example, your Nest thermostat which is voice operated or can read aloud the news from the BBC. The Philips Hue Skill lets you control Philips Hue's smart lighting with your voice. Simply give Alexa a lighting command and your LEDs will respond accordingly.
The role of Amazon's smart speaker
In order to control smart devices with your voice, you need to download the Alexa app or any product app with Alexa integration. Amazon would like to play a pivotal role in consumers households with the smart speaker being the control centre. The speakers work with ZigBee so that they can communicate with other smart home devices via their mesh network. The latest version of the Echo Plus has a built-in temperature sensor, so that it can be used to automatically control your smart heating.
Amazon and ZigBee
The main advantage of ZigBee is that the communication expends much less energy than with Wi-Fi. For example, sensors and smart lights work with ZigBee because they do not need to send or receive a constant signal. This also means that they do not require a constant internet connection as these devices work via a hub. Through the hub, these ZigBee devices can communicate with the internet and other devices, such as your smartphone. An Echo Plus can be used in the role of a hub, allowing you to buy and connect separate smart lamps and control them with your voice. If your Wi-Fi signal is lost, you can still control your connected smart devices via the Echo Plus, which can be useful in emergencies.
Innovations in the smart speakers
Amazon is working hard to improve integration with other devices whilst also ensuring that their smart speakers become better and smarter. The company has expanded the use of smart speakers with all kinds of useful functions. You can now use the latest versions of the speakers as a security system as they can now recognize the sound of breaking glass and automatically send an alarm signal. Another new feature is the 'frustration free set-up'. This is where the smart speakers interact with other smart devices in the background to determine the correct settings. All of these make the realisation of your smart home even easier.