5 Things You Can Do with the Amazon Echo
With home automation steadily on the rise, the number of smart products is constantly expanding. Meet one digital assistant that unites them all.
According to a joint survey from CNET and Coldwell Banker, 81% of those who currently own smart home products said they would be more likely to purchase a home with smart home technology already in place. The study also reports that 47% of millennials are smart home product owners.
MarketWatch predicts that the global smart home market will reach $174.24 billion by 2025. At the forefront of this billion-dollar revolution is the Amazon family of digital assistants. Whether it’s an Echo Dot, a Spot, or a Show, the list of Alexa-enabled capabilities and skills is extensive and growing all the time.
Your Home, Connected
Amazon Echo as a digital assistant, or hub, acts as command central for connected smart devices like thermostats, lighting, heaters, and even appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators. With just your voice, you can control connected smart thermostats to adjust the temperature, turn lights on and off, start the dishwasher, view security cameras, start your robot vacuum cleaner, and more. These devices together make up what is known as the Internet of Things, or IoT, a network of connected products that make your home smart.
Even without any IoT devices connected, Alexa’s ever-growing capabilities make the Echo a helpful assistant indeed, saving you time by allowing you to add to your grocery and other lists, get business hours and movie showtimes, order products, set calendar events, reminders, alarms, and timers, and much more. Alexa makes it easy to schedule meetings by suggesting times that work for everyone, provided you have access to their calendars. Alexa works with Gmail, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange (if you have Alexa for Business), iCloud, and G Suite.
One Impressive Skillset
As of late 2019, Alexa has more than 100,000 skills and works with just as many products from 9,500 brands. One skill is a useful security feature—Alexa Guard, which sends an alert to your phone if it detects the sound of breaking glass, smoke alarms, or carbon monoxide alarms. A more lighthearted skill is prompted by saying, “Alexa, change the subject” when conversation needs a turn-around; Alexa will then suggest new topics to discuss, like the latest books you've read or encouragement to tell your favorite dad jokes. MyPetDoc helps to provide guidance on symptoms for ailing pets, and can connect you with a veterinarian. The safety-oriented Ask My Buddy allows you to ask for help or let those in your network know you are okay.
The Echo Show’s display screen lets you see photos; check the traffic, weather, and sports; see on-screen lyrics; and watch news highlights and movie trailers. You can also stream video from Hulu, Prime Video, NBC, and more, and cook with step-by-step recipes that show you how it’s done. If you have an Echo without a display screen, you can play music from a wide variety of service providers and listen to NPR, sports statistics, news clips, and more. And, you can listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
Video calls are easy to make, either through the Alexa app or to another Echo with a display screen. To talk to someone in another room, just use the Drop In feature to connect via two-way conferencing. To give you control over your privacy, Echo devices have a button that allows you to turn the microphone and camera on and off. If you have a display screen, a built-in shutter closes for privacy. You can also delete recordings.
Your Personal Health & Fitness Coach
Alexa’s skills are the next best thing to having your own personal trainer. One of those skills, 7-Minute Workout, provides a total body workout as Alexa keeps track of the time and guides you through exercises. Stop, Breathe & Think employs the scientifically proven health benefits of meditation to guide you through calming states of relaxation. Fitness Exercises offers suggestions for quick exercises, while Yoga for Beginner (no “s” at the end) teaches you seven poses, letting you practice flexibility, strength, and balance. My Workouts takes you through your workout with music that gets you moving. And for anyone working on a six-pack, the 5-Minute Plank Workout helps you strengthen your core.