10 ways Alexa can help you make the most of your smart home
There's not much she can't do.
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Since Amazon launched Alexa in 2014, she’s become one of the most popular smart assistants available, amassing over 100,000 skills and working with a variety of smart home products.
But, with that many skills, how can you find the best ones to make your day-to-day life easier? We’ve rounded up 10 extremely useful Alexa skills for your smart home. Before you can begin using the skills below, you must enable them using the Amazon Alexa app or Amazon Alexa Skills website in order to take advantage of all of the awesome things Alexa can do for you.
1. Control your home’s thermostat
Yes, Alexa can control the temperature inside of your home—and she’s compatible with our favorite smart thermostat, the Emerson Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat. With the Sensi skill, Alexa can adjust the temperature inside of your home when you say, "Alexa, set my thermostat to 72 degrees," or, "Alexa, increase thermostat by 2 degrees." You can also find out the current temperature indoors by asking, "Alexa, what is the thermostat temperature?"
2. Turn the lights on (and off)
You can control the lights in your house without ever leaving your couch—just ask Alexa to take care of the task for you after enabling the My Leviton skill on Amazon. With the best smart switch, the Leviton Decora WiFi Smart Switch, Alexa can do things like turn on the lights in a certain room when you say, "Alexa, turn on [name of room].” It’s a much easier way of controlling the lights in your home, rather than having to get up and do it yourself.
3. Find the best deals
Whether you need to re-up your supply of paper towels or you just want to browse deals, Alexa can act as your own personal shopping buddy. Alexa voice shopping is a useful service from Amazon that lets you find and buy products on the online retailer's website without doing any real work.
If you know exactly what you're looking for, you can go ahead and order it straight from your Echo speaker by saying, "Alexa, order [item]." She will search through your Amazon order history to find the right product and add it to your cart.
4. Cook dinner
Cooking can be a time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be with Alexa’s help. If you have the WiFi-enabled Instant Pot, Alexa can handle the cooking for you when you enable the Instant Cook skill. Acting like your personal sous chef, you can ask Alexa to "cook meat for 30 minutes on high," or, "cook soup in my Instant Pot." It may not seem practical at first, but this Alexa skill is intended to be used in conjunction with a routine. So, you might create an Alexa routine to begin pressure cooking the oatmeal you put in your Instant Pot the night before, turn the lights on, and start your coffee maker.
5. Call your friends and family
With an Amazon Echo speaker, you can make calls to your contacts using Alexa. For example, you can say things like, "Hey Alexa, call [name's] phone," or, "Alexa, call [name's] office." Alexa uses your phone number to call your contact’s landline or cell phone number.
Additionally, you can use Alexa-to-Alexa calling to ring a friend’s Echo speaker when you say, "Alexa, call [name's] Echo." If you have a video display like the Echo Show or the Echo Show 5, you can make video calls using Alexa or Skype.
However, Alexa Calling can't dial 911, three-digit numbers (such as 211), premium rate or toll numbers, or dial-by-letter numbers. Alexa Calling also does not support international numbers outside of the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, and Mexico.
6. Clean your home
Robot vacuums are becoming increasingly popular and many of them are compatible with Alexa, like our favorite robot vacuum, the iRobot Roomba i7+. Instead of manually starting your iRobot vacuum or using the app, you can ask Alexa to start cleaning your floors by saying, “Alexa, ask Roomba to start vacuuming.” When the cleaning is complete say, “Alexa, tell Roomba to go home.” However, before you can control your Roomba with Alexa, you must enable the iRobot skill on Amazon.
7. Find your lost phone
A smartphone is a crucial part of controlling your smart home and it can be frustrating to lose it inside of your abode (hey, it happens). That’s OK, because with the Find My Phone skill, Alexa can help you locate your missing phone. To find your phone say, "Alexa, find my phone." You must sync your phone with the Find My Phone skill before you can use it.
8. Control your smart plugs
The great thing about smart plugs is they can make just about any appliance or electrical device smart. With the best smart plug, the Currant WiFi Smart Outlet, you can say things like "Alexa, turn on the TV" or "Alexa, turn off the living room lamp." Just make sure to enable the Currant skill on Amazon first.
9. Put a movie on
We’ve tested the Roku Ultra, and not only is the best media streaming device, but it works with Alexa, too. Not sure what to watch? When you enable the Roku skill on Amazon you can say, “Alexa, show me comedies on Roku.” She can also do things like pause and stop shows.
10. View your security cameras
With a smart video display like the Echo Show or the Echo Show 5, you can ask Alexa to show you the camera’s live feed when using the best outdoor smart security camera for the money, the Netgear Arlo Pro. To view the live feed after enabling the Arlo skill on Amazon say, “Alexa, show the backyard.” This skill is helpful if you want to check in on the kids (or pets) playing in the backyard.
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