Ikea entered the home automation market earlier this year with a new line of products called TRÅDFRI, which means “wireless” in Swedish. With a hub that costs just $29.99 and smart bulbs that start at $11.99, they are among the least expensive ways to add smart lights to your home. At launch, the product line only worked with Ikea’s app and $14.99 physical remote, which greatly limited their appeal. Now the TRÅDFRI has gained compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, as well as Apple HomeKit and Google Home, making them much more appealing to Amazon Echo and Fire TV owners.
Ecobee just announced their brand new ecobee4 smart thermostat with Alexa built-in, but what was more surprising was the announcement of an all new product to facilitate, what they’re calling, “whole home voice.” The new product is an ecobee smart light switch with integrated temperature, occupancy, and daylight sensors. As if that weren’t enough, the light switch has microphones and speakers for full built-in Alexa functionality. Read more ›
Ecobee has officially announced the ecobee4 smart thermostat with built-in full Alexa capabilities. To be clear, this isn’t just a smart thermostat that can be controlled by Alexa, but rather, it’s like having an Echo Dot attached to your wall that happens to also directly control your home AC and heater in a smart way. The ecobee4 has a microphone, speaker, and lightbar to facilitate Alexa communication, as well as a touchscreen and smartphone app for its standard thermostat interface. Read more ›
Amazon has announced the addition of smart lock control to Alexa’s repertoire of native abilities. The voice assistant has been able to control WiFi enabled door locks for several months, but it required using Alexa Skills and hubs like the Samsung SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub. With the addition of native support, you’ll be able to simply say “Alexa, lock the front door” without having to use a skill. The new feature also supports lock queries, so the voice assistant will tell you the state of your lock by asking “Alexa, is the front door locked?” Locks from August, Yale, and Schlage already support the new feature.
Amazon’s Alexa has been able to directly control smart thermostats for over a year now, but one glaring omission has been its inability to tell you anything about the thermostats current state. While you could always ask Alexa to set a temperature, you couldn’t request what the thermostat was set to or request to hear the actual current indoor temperature, leaving many to resort to using third-party Alexa Skills for those tasks. Amazon has now finally updated their Alexa Smart Home Skill API to support thermostat requests. Read more ›
Amazon’s Alexa smart home assistant now has the ability to turn scenes off and on. Scenes allow customers to issue a single voice command that set a predefined configuration to several different smart home devices. Saying “Alexa, turn on bedtime” for example could turn off lights, dim other lights, and set a nighttime temperature on a smart thermostat.
The new support for scenes is similar to the existing groups feature, but it’s distinctly different. For starters, the groups feature can only turn devices on or off, not configure a specific setting. Second, scenes are configured through a device manufacturers app, not through the Alexa app, like you do for groups. So, if you have a smarthome hub, for example, that already supports setting scenes to control multiple devices at once, Alexa can now tap into those scenes and let you extend that control to your voice.
Lutron’s Caséta line of connected light switches and plugs are the latest piece of home automation hardware that can be controlled by Alexa on the Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Echo family of devices. You will need either the Lutron Smart Bridge or Wink Home Hub to fascilitate the comunication betweeen Alexa and the switches. Like most smart home devices, once their setup to work with their own apps, simply link them with Alexa using the Alexa app and you’ll be able to control them with your voice.
Last month, Ecobee3 became the first smart thermostat compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Now, along with the announcement of the new Amazon Tap and Echo Dot, Amazon has revealed that Alexa will gain compatibility with Nest and Honeywell thermostats later this month. It’s been possible to control smart thermostats like the Nest with the Amazon Echo and Fire TV indirectly through an IFTTT recipe for some time, but the method has always been missing key components to make it a viable solution. With built-in support added by Amazon, you’ll soon be able to control most aspects of these smart thermostats with your voice.
It seems like every week Alexa on the Amazon Echo and Fire TV is gaining more and more ways to control smart home devices, and this week is no exception. Ecobee, makers of the 2nd most popular wifi thermostat, second only to Nest, have announced that Alexa on the Amazon Echo can now be used to control the Ecobee3 thermostat. As you’d expect, owners of the Ecobee3 can say “Alexa, set my thermostat to 72” or other similar phrases to easily change the temperature. It’s unclear at this time if Alexa on the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick will also gain this new ability.
Alexa’s steady infiltration towards smart home domination has now extended beyond the walls of your home and into your yard for the first time. Rachio has included support for Alexa voice integration with their new 2nd generation Smart Sprinkler Controller. The new Rachio Alexa Skill lets you use Alexa on the Amazon Echo and Fire TV to start and stop your sprinklers using your voice. Even more useful is the ability to simply tell Alexa to relay the fact that it’s raining to your sprinkler controller in order to trigger a rain delay, which any homeowner knows is the most common interaction one has with automated sprinklers.
Alarm.com is a home monitoring service that is expanding into home automation. They released a Fire TV app last April which lets you view your Alarm.com security cameras, but now they’re adding Alexa voice control support. Their smart home capabilities include smart lighting which lets you link smart light bulbs from various manufacturers with the Alarm.com service to trigger lights based on events. An example they give is automatically turning on the lights when a motion sensor is tripped or when a door is unlocked. The first Alexa capability they’re adding is the ability to turn lights on and off through Alexa voice commands. This feature is already supported by Alexa by default without Alarm.com integration, but if you already have lights configured with Alarm.com’s system, you won’t have to seperatly configure them with Alexa. You would just be using Alexa as the voice input method for your Alarm.com setup. Alarm.com says their Alexa interface will launch early this year.
Earlier this week, Alexa gained a powerful new IFTTT trigger that allows Amazon Echo and Fire TV owners to perform actions by setting up custom phrases. This new ability, with IFTTT acting as a mediator, brought smart home device control to the Fire TV for the first time. Now, Amazon has natively added all the connected home device capabilities from the Amazon Echo to the Fire TV. You can now control lights, outlets, and more directly through your Fire TV voice remote. Read more ›
Amazon has introduced a new Alexa Lighting API to make it even easier for developers to control smart lights using Alexa and the Amazon Echo. This new API is an extension of the Alexa Skills Kit introduced a couple months ago. Samsung is among the first manufacturers to use the new API. They’ve announced today that the Amazon Echo can now control their SmartThings line of smart home hubs, sensors, and outlets.
The Amazon Echo continues its fast paced expansion of capabilities with the latest update which now allows it to control Wink compatible smart home products. When the Echo gained Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo support, it was its first step into smart home conrol. The Wink Hub, which is now supported by the Echo, opens the voice controlled speaker to a wider selection of products using a variety of protocols like: Z-wave, Zigbee, and ClearConnect. If you’re not sold on Philips’ Hue line of products, for example, this new support for Wink greatly expands the number of smart products that can be controlled by the Echo. At right around $10, GE’s Wink compatible smart bulb is a much more affordable option than Philips’ $80 two bulb Hue kit.
Now that the Amazon Echo is out of beta and available for purchase by anyone, the quickly growing number of compatible devices is sure to accelerate. The recent release of Echo and Alexa developer tools should make for some interesting new features as well.
The Amazon Echo has just received new IFTTT triggers which may initially seem lackluster, but one trigger in particular has the potential for some interesting possibilities. IFTTT, which stands for “if this then that“, is a web service that acts as a middleman to facilitate communication between dozens of different devices and services. The new triggers added for the Amazon Echo allow IFTTT to perform actions when you ask for sports scores, sports schedules, or request a song. It’s the new song request trigger that I find most intriguing.
Since you can upload an MP3 with a custom title to your Amazon Music Library, this new trigger allows you to, I believe for the first time, perform IFTTT actions with the Amazon Echo using custom phrases. The phrases must just begin with “Alexa, start…“, followed by a customized MP3 title that exists in your music library. Using this simple, yet powerful addition, I’ve been able to create a proof-of-concept that controls the Amazon Fire TV by utilizing the Echo’s voice commands. Here is a sample video showing what can be achieved. I’m currently writing an article, which outlines all the details of how this is done, that I expect to have published on Monday. The process is by no means practical, so don’t expect a simple guide, but it does demonstrate what can be achieved.
Amazon’s voice-controlled speaker, the Amazon Echo, keeps getting more useful. A couple months ago it gained the ability to control more music services. With the recent introduction of a development kit, it has ventured into the ever growing world of smart home control. The Amazon Echo can now control Philips Hue lights and Belkin WeMo devices. This could well be the most usefully addition the Echo has seen since it began shipping last year. Read more ›