We’ve already covered the amazing features of Amazon Echo’s smart assistant Alexa in “25 Top Things You Can Do With Amazon Echo’s Alexa”.
But, there’s a lot more you can do with your Echo device. Be it the tall original or the new chunky Echo Dot that is taking consumer’s homes by storm, these boxes have a lot of power to help drive your smart home and manage your digital life.
Amazon’s product is rapidly taking over as a smart home controller and can work with your devices, as well as other modern digital services to make it more useful in our day to day lives. Some basic Echo facts are the more you talk to Alexa, the better she will understand you, although there’s been no trouble with understanding any of our family.
Contents (Jump to)
Adding Services and Skills
- Setting Echo up with other media accounts
Before you can have your Echo belting out hits on Spotify, radio stations from Pandora or TuneIn Radio, you will need to link your Echo to them using the iOS or Android app. The same goes for your Uber or Dominos pizza account, add them in the app, under Settings, Account and then you can order services, food or call up playlists without further fuss.
- Browse Echo’s Skills for more features
Your Echo can act as a source of great, useful or trivial information. There’s a huge range of skills you can enable from within the app, from finding out more about Amazon’s own Grand Tour car show. Each skill provides you a few examples of what to ask, but feel free to try your own questions. Search the skills for travel or other travel, weather, cinema and other information local to you, to better equip an Echo as part of your routine. If you know the skill you want to enable, and know a skill exists, just say “Alexa, enable Uber” for example.
- Choose your specific sports updates
Inside the Settings, Account menu is a Sports Update option that allows you to directly enter the name of a sports team from the NBA, NFL, MLB, hockey or major soccer leagues around the world. Add your favorites and you can find out scores and game days without the need for any extra skills or accounts.
- Change the wake word
If someone in your house is called Alexa, Alexander or similar names, then you can get through a lot of false triggers before you give up and decide to change the wake word for your Echo. At the moment, your alternate options are only “Amazon” or “Echo” but unless you have a very strange taste in pet names, then one of these should help avoid any confusion, you can set which one in the app.
- Delete all your recordings
Using the app, you can only delete your voice recordings one by one. However, go to the Amazon website, choose Your Account, Manage Your Content and Devices, choose Manage Voice Recordings and select Delete. This will get rid of any drunken chats you had with her, or if your children were messing about.
- Create multiple accounts
As your Echo family grows, or more people in the home join Amazon and use its services, you can add their accounts to the Echo to access their music and so on. Note that other people could use the Prime account for misuse, so ensure you create the four-digit pin in Settings, Voice Purchasing to prevent the kids from ordering pizza or box sets while you’re out the house.
Use the commands, “Switch accounts.” or “Which profile is this?” to find out what the Echo is currently set to.
Smart Home Device Management
- You don’t need Skills for all smart home devices
A rapidly growing number of devices are Alexa compatible, with Skills for the job. See “Top 10 Smart Home Devices That Talk to Alexa” (LINK). However, there are many devices that don’t but all is not lost. Using IFTTT commands, you can trigger devices or access advanced features that the Alexa support might not cover. The IFTTT site has a huge list of instructions for various devices you can use in the U.S. or U.K.
To use these commands, sign in to the IFTTT site, or create an account, and you can send commands to Alexa quickly by linking your Amazon account. Remember, you can also control Alexa from your desktop using the link to control it from your PC.
- How to use tricky to remember or alternative device names
Naming smart home devices should be done logically, i.e., kitchen lights for a group name, and perhaps diner lights and hob lights if there are multiple lights in that room. If you, or family members, can’t remember or agree what the proper name for one device is then, there’s a simple trick. Assign it the main name, perhaps “hall light” that you use, and then assign it to a group of just one item, and use the group name, say “stair lights” as what everyone else calls it. That way, people can call it what they like and the device will still work.
- When planning your smart home
If you’re new to smart home technology, then you might want to ensure all your new devices work with Echo and Alexa. Naturally, Amazon has its own department store for all compatible devices with starter kits, lighting, thermostats, plugs and accessories from the leading compatible brands, including SmartThings, Wemo, Insteon, Honeywell and Hue.
- Extend Your Sound
While the original Echo has a decent speaker for music playback, the newer Dot is less of a contender, not bad but hardly the tool for a hi-fi enthusiast. They do come with 3.5mm jacks to connect to a stereo, but in the smart home age, they also come with Bluetooth, so can connect to soundbars or other audio systems to pump up the volume. Just say “Alexa, enable bluetooth” and it will even turn any paired devices on for you.
- Celebrity Alarms
Don’t just settle for any alarm wake up, Amazon Echo and Alexa provide you with a list of celebrity alarm wake up. Ideal for those times, first set up an an alarm with a voice command. Then, go into the app, choose, Timers and Alarms, then Manage Alarm Volume and Sound, then pick a famous person from the Celebrity list. With a range of Hollywood stars and other fine figures to help get you out of bed.
- Smart Health with Echo
Not only can the Echo help you track your Fitbit numbers, but families can set reminders to talk important medications. It can also be used to help people with poor mobility, joint problems or disability use devices around their home. Smart health is a big topic among the big technology firms, and as we get older, expect Alexa and Echo to grow on the journey with us to provide medical information, perhaps even analysis and diagnostic advice in the future.
The Final Word
Part of the joy of Echo and Alexa is the constant updates and new devices. Keep checking back for new features on what they can do for your smart home, and always be aware of updates that can help make it smarter.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!