One of the top goals for the Smarter Home Club is to help beginners get started in home automation. Several of my upcoming posts will introduce novices to products that are easy to setup and use but offer huge benefits. The first of those products that I want to introduce to you is the Amazon Echo line of products, which are the gateway to Amazon’s versatile virtual assistant, Alexa!
Everybody has to start somewhere and not everyone has spent 25 years or more working in technology fields. Today’s home automation tech is easy enough that nobody should be intimidated. If you have a fairly current smart phone or tablet and know your Wi-Fi login, you can set up tons of devices that you just plug in – no need to even turn off a breaker!
I’ll cover the setup of the Echo Dot, as it is the device that most of us start with. At the bottom of the blog post, I’ve included a series of screen shots to show the steps involved, but here’s a basic summary:
- Download Amazon Alexa on your mobile device (App Store for iPhone or Google Play store for Android).
- Open the App and sign in with your Amazon credentials. The program will automatically prompt you to install an Echo device the first time you install it, but skip it if you need step-by-step instructions.
- Plug in your Echo Dot
- When the Dot says it is ready to set up, go to the Alexa Devices option in the menu.
- Tap the + in the top right corner for “Add Alexa Device”
- Select “Echo Dot” as the device to set up, select Continue
- Choose your language (example, English (United States), select Continue
Tap “Connect To Wi-Fi”
- The Orange light ring should be present on the Echo Dot by now, select Continue
- The app will try to connect to the Echo Dot automatically but may prompt you to make a manual connection – if so, go to your Wi-Fi networks and look for an Amazon device
- Once connected, return to the app and tap Continue
The App will prompt you to select the local Wi-Fi network that you will connect the Echo Dot to – select the correct network
- You are prompted to enter in your Wi-Fi password – put it in, select Connect
Once the Echo Dot is connected, the App displays “Setup Complete,” tap Continue.
- The next screen asks how you want to use your Echo Dot (Bluetooth, Audio Cable, No Speakers – pick No Speakers for now)
- Now that the device is set up, you’ll find it in the list of Alexa Devices. If you tap on it, you’ll get an edit screen where you can change the name to something friendly, change the Wi-Fi network, the wake word, and other settings… but, for now, you’re all done!
- Say “Alexa, what time is it?” and she should answer you with your current local time!
I’ve also done a short video introduction to the Echo family of products on our YouTube channel:
Here are some easy commands to get you started working with Alexa (remember to preface each command with the wake word, which is set to “Alexa” by default):
- What time is it?
- Set a timer for XX minutes
- How much time is left on the timer?
- What is today’s weather forecast?
- Who do the Broncos play on Sunday?
- What’s the score for the Broncos game?
- Play Ambient Noise (there are over 800 sounds available with this – dig in and find one you like! Also, be sure to tell Alexa to loop if you want the sound to run for more than an hour)
- Play songs by Stevie Wonder (or play the Stevie Wonder Station for songs by Stevie and similar artists)
- Find a recipe for tacos (there are many recipe skills available – try enabling AllRecipes or Food Network)
- Play Twenty Questions (there are many games you can enable, just search for Alexa Game Skills)
- Use Echo to help with your Amazon shopping (but be sure to set a pin number if your Echo is in a shared environment or you have kids around).
- If you give Alexa access to your contacts on your phone or tablet, you can use your Echo device to make calls:The Echo Show and the Echo Spot can make video calls
Any Echo device can call another Echo user from your contacts list
Echo devices can also call a cell phone number form your contacts list
You can also use Echo devices in your home as intercoms using the Drop In feature (Alexa, drop in on living room!)This list is only scratching the surface. There are over 30,000 skills you can enable for different products and companies (example – enable the Domino’s skill to order a pizza via your Echo device). This list doesn’t even include the ability to control smart home devices, like lights, switches, thermostats or more, though I’ll cover that topic soon!
SmarterHome.club is the website for our Facebook community, The Smarter Home Club – which is an umbrella for all kinds of smart home technologies – home automation, security, custom electronics, weather stations, alternative energy, you name it. DIY focused.
If you’re interested in joining the Smarter Home Club’s Facebook group, please follow this link:
The Smarter Home Club on Facebook
Pictures of the Echo Dot setup: