Amazon has made a minor but very useful change to how smart plugs are configured in the Alexa app. You can now specify that certain plugs should be treated as lights. This is especially handy in the context of device groups because it means you can now include a lamp connected to a smart plug in your group as a light. This means you can now have smart plugs turn on when you simply ask “Alexa, turn on the lights,” which was not possible before this change. To configure a smart plug as a light, edit its settings under the smart home section of the Alexa app and look for the new “type” option.
For Amazon’s early Black Friday deals, they have the Wemo Mini Spart Plug on sale for $24.99. This is the new lowest price that this plug has ever been. This is Wemo’s newest WiFi plug model that improves on the previous design by slimming down the device so that two of them can fit on a single outlet. You can turn on or off anything plugged into this smart plug using either Alexa or the Wemo phone app. You can also use the button on the plug to manually turn the power on or off. Wemo devices, including this plug, do not require any type of smart hub, so all you need for this plug to work is the plug itself.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is on sale for $49.99 on Amazon. That’s the lowest price this hub has ever been. The SmartThings hub can control a large array of smart home devices, both from Samsung themselves as well as other manufacturers. The hub works with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and acts as a relay between Alexa and many devices that don’t yet work directly with Alexa.
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.
Amazon’s list of available Home Services has been steadily expanding ever since they started offering the services two years ago. One of the fastest growing categories is the collection of Smart Home related services, which range from the relatively simple task of setting up a Fire TV to more daunting all day multi-device setups. If the ever-growing market of smart home devices and services is overwhelming, Amazon is offering smart home consultations completely for free. Read more ›
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 just added native support for smart locks earlier this month. This allow you to lock your door and check if your door is locked using your voice with ease. If this is something that interests you, the August Smart Lock just went on sale for $182.99 at Amazon. At 20% off the retail price of $230, that’s the lowest price this lock has ever been.
The August Smart Home skill lets you ask Alexa using natural speech. That means you can say “Alexa, lock the front door” or “Alexa, is the front door locked?” to perform the action or receive a response. There is also a regular August skill that adds the optional ability to unlock the door by speaking a PIN code, if that interests you. This works through any Alexa access, not just hardware like the Echo and Fire TV, but also through the new iOS app integration. So the next time you leave the house and immediately question if you locked the door, you can quickly find out and put your mind at ease.
WeMo and TP-Link make some of the most popular smart home plugs, switches, and light bulbs. That’s because they are among the least expensive products in their category and don’t require you to purchase a costly hub of any sort. If you’ve purchased WiFi connected devices from either of these brands, you may be interested in a new Fire TV app called WemoHome4Fire.
While it may not be particularly pretty, the app gives you an all-in-one control panel for all WeMo and TP-Link smart home devices. For those times when asking Alexa to control your devices is inconvenient or inappropriate, this app can be used to turn lights, plugs, and switches on or off. It can even control brightness, temperature, color, and saturation for light bulbs like the TP-Link LB120 and LB130. The app is compatible with all Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models.
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.