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Review – Amazon Echo Voice Control

Alexa home automation and voice control for you smart home!

You see it in the movies and now you can have it in your home with the Amazon Echo devices.

"Alexa" - Turn on the lights. Set the temperature to 68. Turn on HGTV. Open the garage. Turn on the fan. Open the pod bay doors. 

Anything your smart home can do can be controlled by your voice. It's Alexa home automation!

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What is the Amazon Echo?

The Amazon Echo is leading the way in voice control for smart homes. Before voice control, connected smart home devices could only be controlled through automation or through an app on your phone.

In many cases, you would have to use multiple apps based on the device you wanted to control. If you wanted to turn on the lights, then you would have to open the lighting app. If you wanted to set the home temperature, then you would have to open the thermostat app.

This is not the "incredible convenience" that you want in your smart home. Voice control is the solution to this problem.

The Amazon Echo devices give you voice control over everything your smart home can do.

The Amazon Echo devices give you voice control over everything your smart home can do. Almost every smart home device or product is integrated with Alexa. Additionally, more companies are adding their Alexa home automation products to this list on a weekly basis. Once you setup your smart home, you will use the voice control features of the Amazon Echo devices every day.

Quick Notes

  1. Echo is the name of the products.
  2. Alexa is the name of the software in the products.
  3. There is NOT a monthly subscription needed to use the Echo products with Alexa.

How will I use the Amazon Echo?

The Amazon Echo devices are the perfect voice control tool for your smart home. However, the benefits and capabilities of these devices go much further than just smart home control. Amazon is heavily investing in the development and capabilities of these devices. Here is a summary list of the ways my family uses the Amazon Echo on a daily basis.

Daily use in my home:

  • Turn on and off lights
  • Set lighting scenes - relax lighting, TV lighting
  • circle-o
    Turn on the TV.  Change TV channel.
  • Get the current temperature and forecast
  • Set the inside temperature
  • Start a timer - cooking timer, kid's timeout timer (used way too often)
  • Set a reminder (one-time and recurring) - the School bus is arriving, take your vitamins
  • Home Intercom - drop in on kid's room to say dinner is ready
  • Play Music from Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tune-In

As I'm writing this list, I realize that my family uses the Amazon Echo devices even more than I thought. Alexa home automation was the goal, but the Echo adds value in many other areas. The list above is just how we use the device daily. There are dozens of other ways we use the Amazon Echo products, and there are 10,000+ skills for you to explore for your own use. 

You can find a complete list of the Amazon Echo Skills on the Amazon website.

Which Amazon Echo Should I Buy?

Amazon started with one device in late 2014 (I was lucky enough to get one of their first release devices). As of now, Amazon has 5 different options to choose from for the Echo product line. Each device has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the primary devices that you will use are the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo Product Line

  • Echo - Standard size device with speakers good enough for stand-alone music playing. Great product for Alexa home automation in your smart home.
  • Echo Dot - Mini device great for extending smart home voice control to every room of your house. The Echo Dot can be plugged into other speakers with a 3.5 mm cable for better audio.
  • Echo Plus - Slightly larger than the Echo and it contains a ZigBee controller for basic connections to some lights, locks and plugs. This is not needed if you use another home automation hub like the Samsung SmartThings Hub that I recommend.
  • Echo Spot - Small Echo Dot sized device that includes a 2.5" screen. Allows voice control to view some smart home cameras.
  • Echo Show - Larger device with a 7" screen and dual speakers. Allows voice control to view some smart home cameras.

Alexa Home Automation - Echo Devices in My Home

Here are the Echo devices that I use and recommend for your smart home. The main difference is the sound quality. Use the Echo in primary rooms where you will listen to music, podcasts, etc.  Use the Echo Dot to expand voice control to all the other rooms.

Amazon Echo​The Amazon Echo device is a great choice for primary rooms in your home. There are 6 different decorative shells you can buy which allows you fit the design style of your room. The speakers in the Echo are good enough for most people to enjoy music as well as all of the other benefits of the device.

Amazon Echo Dot​The Amazon Echo Dot is a great device to expand Alexa home automation and voice control to your entire home. It is very affordable so I have a device is just about every room of our home. The kids even have one in their bedrooms that they use for alarm clocks, music and homework questions.

You should start with an Echo in your kitchen and/or living room. You will use the devices in these central locations every day. These areas should also be where you start building out your smart home lighting.

Where does the Amazon Echo Fall Short?

The Amazon Echo has come a long way and I can honestly say that is lacks very little in regards to voice control for your smart home. The only item that I currently have an issue with is the speed of execution for running a SmartThings scene. There is a noticeable delay (around 1-2 seconds) while running a scene through Amazon Echo voice control as compared to running a scene directly in the Samsung SmartThings app. I do not experience this delay when turning on or off devices by themselves.

One item I would like to see developed for the Amazon Echo product line is audible notification support for SmartThings. Having your home talk to you and give you notifications is one of the best benefits of a fully developed smart home. Currently, you have to use Sonos or Bose SoundTouch speakers for audible notifications. With Amazon Echo speakers already scattered throughout the house, it just makes sense to use those speakers as the voice of your smart home too.

Summary

Overall, the Amazon Echo is a very stable, well developed product and it is the perfect voice control device for your smart home. Setup of the device is easy and the interface in the Alexa App on your phone cleanly lays out your smart home devices, groups and scenes. The Echo is a useful and fun device on its own, but it really shines when you add other core smart home products such as Hue Lights and SmartThings products to your setup.

I recommend starting your smart home project with the Amazon Echo because it can do so much more than provide Alexa home automation and voice control. Put your first device in a central location like the kitchen and you and your family will start using it daily for music, weather, timers, etc. When you add a home automation hub and other smart home devices to your home, the Amazon Echo will really start proving its value. 

Alexa. Remind me to buy another Echo.

P.S. Please leave a comment below to ask a question, help someone else or share your experiences. Thanks!

About the Author Jason

Husband, father and Smart Home enthusiast. I look forward to discussing Smart Home products and projects with you. I have over 100 connected devices in my home, and I'm excited to share what I have learned to help you build a Smart Home that works!

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