Monthly Archives: December 2016

Amazon Alexa with Echo and Dot

When Amazon first hinted at the idea of the Echo – an always listening, always connected internet voice recognition device – I was immediately interested. When they offered an early release purchase to Prime members I jumped on it and then had to bribe some friends to order me more at the bargain early adopter price! That was a couple of years ago now and my house is full of Echos and Dots now.

The early days of Alexa had limited functionality because the skills were limited and even Amazon didn’t seem to know what was really possible. However, even then I liked it because I could still use it to play music, check the weather, add things to my shopping list and set timers/alarms.

Google just released Google Home which is the Echo competitor, but I am not very interested in it. At heart I don’t really trust Google with privacy issues. Amazon feels (yes, subjective!) like they would be more careful or at least not exploit information about me outside of how to sell more Amazon products to me. Somehow that makes me feel better.

The other thing I like about Amazon and the Alexa platform is they are opening the technology up to outside developers and third parties and not making this a closed system – ala Apple. With the idea of being the home hub for all smart devices Amazon is looking at the long picture and I think it will pay off big time. Making it easy for other manufacturers to integrate with Alexa will keep the platform developing much faster than if it was just reliant on Amazon to develop custom products.

As a consumer and early adopter I don’t really want to invest all in one platform and find out I have a wonderful, but obsolete setup. Spending less then $50 for a smart plug or smart bulb makes it easier to scale my investment in a smart household. With the Dot being largely available for $40 over the festive period it makes the idea of having Alexa in every room of your house much less outrageous.

With the Alexa skills open to anyone to develop for there are all sorts of skills (like apps, but for Alexa) that you can use. There are interactive games, recipes, tools – I can listen to my Ooma voicemails, and fun things. Everyone always loves the fart skill 🙂

I have avoided the smart locks so far, just seems a little too dubious to my mind at the moment. I don’t need to be locked out of my house because we lost power or something. As with all technology I think it will grow and improve greatly so I am quite happy to stick with a few large plugs for now in the anticipation some much neater implementations will be forthcoming soon enough.

For now I am more than satisfied with having Spotify available in virtually any room I am in and I can check the weather! The voice recognition works very well on the whole and I have an accent. Moving to America taught me to pronounce my words a bit more clearly, just to save having to repeat myself 20 times. I think Alexa appreciates that too…