Amazon’s Alexa is rapidly becoming the premier smart home virtual assistant, appearing in dozens of devices from a wide range of vendors and
The Alexa package features information services, media playing, online shopping (with Amazon) plus some 7,000 Skills extensions to allow it to work with other services, apps and smart home products.
Not surprisingly, Alexa devices were top sellers on the Amazon site over Christmas, this category of product has moved rapidly away from the smart home niche and into the mainstream, but the benefits to smart home owners will be extensive.
The primary reason is that as a defacto standard, Alexa will be widely adopted making compatibility and integration less of a worry.
While tech gadget lovers will enjoy Alexa for the witty chat and artificial intelligence, the real strength to the ecosystem will come from wider distribution, growing interest from developers, and integration across whole new and future categories of device.
Yes, Google Home and Apple’s Siri wait in the wings, but they are falling badly behind in the adoption race with Google Home barely launched, and Apple restricting its Apple TV smart home play to devices that support HomeKit.
There are some people who focus on Alexa’s limitations, she can’t currently send a global command to shut everything in the home off, or collect different types of devices together to make her own themes.
However, In the two years of Alexa’s life, she has already come on a long way, adding new features on a monthly basis. So, it shouldn’t be too long before these, and more languages, are supported as Amazon tries to make Alexa a global ambassador for their brand.
These 10 leading devices bring Alexa to the home, specific rooms, in-car and on the go, potentially making her the defacto choice for all smart homes to come.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 Amazon Echo ($179)
- 2 LG Hub Robot (Coming Soon)
- 3 Neato Botvac Connected ($799)
- 4 WeMo Switch Smart Plug ($29)
- 5 LG Smart Instaview Refrigerator (TBA)
- 6 Philips 2nd Generation Hue Bridge ($59)
- 7 Ecobee 3 Lite Thermostat ($169)
- 8 Ford F-150 ($27,000+)
- 9 Samsung SmartThings Hub, 2nd Generation ($99)
- 10 Amazon Echo Dot ($49)
Amazon Echo ($179)
The product that started it all, catapulting Amazon into the smart home market when it launched in November 2014. Since then, the team behind Amazon Echo$179 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) have been rapidly making it smarter, and capable of interacting with more devices and services.
LG Hub Robot (Coming Soon)
The rise of the home robot starts here, with this stout little device packing a camera and sensors that is, for now, a rather static creature. However, within the year, expect more mobile versions or rival models, roving the home to
LG’s Hub has a screen making interaction easier for young and old, and the device can also entertain with video content or be used for homework or recreational purposes.
Amazon apparently plans its own screen-based Echo device, but for now the LG Hub Robot will be a prime contender when it launches later this year.
Neato Botvac Connected ($799)
There’s no need to dig out your phone or find the app, or bend down and press a button to get the top-end Neato robotic vacuum cleaner $799 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) started now, just
Currently, the functionality is limited to stopping and starting, but it shouldn’t be too long before this or rival cleaners can be told to clean a specific location
Or, you should soon be able to tell them to start cleaning at a specific time, Alexa will be ideal for these sorts of interactions, especially among older users where traditional vacuum cleaning is a tough ask.
WeMo Switch Smart Plug ($29)
For many people, an Echo device will be their first step into a smart home, and rather than spending lots of money on new devices, they will be looking to add smarts to their existing home electrical products.
That’s where the Alexa-friendly WeMo switch Smart Plug $29 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) will come in handy, plug in any old device, and it can be turned on or off via a simple request through Alexa.
LG Smart Instaview Refrigerator (TBA)
Part of the key to making Alexa smarter is linking her to new types of products, which is why LG’s new refrigerator will play a key role. Yes, this will be a high-end purchase, but it could make a big difference to life in the kitchen.
Sure, Alexa can already help you with shopping lists, but by integrating with a smarter fridge, Alexa will soon be able to compile shopping lists without our help, she could let you know when you’re likely to run out of a food item, or if you suggest a recipe will know what’s missing that you need to get.
Philips 2nd Generation Hue Bridge ($59)
When an Echo owner starts looking for smart home technology, one of the first things on the list will be lighting. While Philips and other lighting brands support Alexa, the key here is in the marketing.
Philips 2nd Generation Hue Bridge $59 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) also works with Apple’s Siri, but you wouldn’t know it as all the Hue products on the Amazon site say “works with Alexa.”
This free bit of marketing will drive even more customers to Echo, and the Philips lights themselves are a fine product, helping save power and create a homely environment, with regular LED bulbs, strip lights and Bloom, all responding to Echo voice commands.
Ecobee 3 Lite Thermostat ($169)
Smart thermostats helped kickstart the smart home revolution and the latest Ecobee 3 Lite Thermostat $169 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) lets Alexa take even more control, allowing people to manage the temperature from the comfort of the couch, without even need to look at a smartphone screen.
This level of home automation and comfortable ease of use helps create the refined image of smart homes that companies love to project. Having Alexa in charge of all these devices is part of the smart home dream, and those that don’t quite work that way will soon be left behind.
Ford F-150 ($27,000+)
Just like the LG refrigerator, sticking Alexa in a truck, which Ford is doing with its new Sync-3 equipped models, challenges developers to create new uses for the smart assistant.
Echo users sat at home, having a cup of coffee, can ask Alexa to remote start their car, get the cab nice and warm, and unlock the doors ready to go. It can also report on the gas and battery status.
When in the car, when the services goes live over 2017, drivers will be able to ask Alexa for traffic conditions, weather reports, pick personalized music playlists and kick in the sat nav. Users should also be able to get the heating going as they near home, or turn the lights on as they roll up the drive.
Samsung SmartThings Hub, 2nd Generation ($99)
For anyone worried that their traditional smart home setup would be swept away by a tide of WiFi-enabled direct-to-Echo compatible devices, the good news is that Samsung’s SmartThings $99 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), among other hubs, is picking up Alexa compatibility to make controlling any smart home device a matter of a few well-chosen words.
SmartThings works with hundreds of smart home devices, and if they don’t directly support Alexa, then the Hub will take control of that for you, so soon there won’t be anything around the home that you can’t boss around with voice commands.
Amazon Echo Dot ($49)
While it might be a bit less of an Echo device, sacrificing the big speaker, the $49 price point (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) is the big deal around Echo Dot. It was Amazon’s top seller and top gifted item over the
This allows Amazon to get Alexa into pretty much any home, smart or not. It allows smarter homes to stock up on multiple Echo devices, and as people see how useful or fun she is, it makes an easy sale into new homes.
Whether the family is listening to Spotify or ordering take out food from Pizza Hut, Echo Dot is hugely significant as the Trojan Horse that Amazon will use to rack up tens of millions of sales. So far Google Home has none, and Apple’s sales of Apple TV are so poor, they’ve never been disclosed.
These devices will help define Alexa’s place in the smart home and help drive future functions. If you thought Alexa was on a roll at CES, just give it a few months and the bandwagon will be unstoppable.
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!