Walking into your home and having everything automated by one voice activated system sounds like science fiction, but it’s very much science fact.
Rapid advances in technology means the number of home automation systems and smart devices is constantly growing, to the point where we can now have our meals cooked, our washing done and our pets fed by the time we get home – and with many of us now having longer commutes and busier schedules than ever before, this can make life a whole lot easier.
What’s the Amazon Echo all about?
If you only want to control a few devices and don’t want a massively advanced system or anything too technical, then something like the Amazon Echo could be the ideal solution.
Available in black or white and selling for a not-completely-bank-busting £150, Echo is a 9.25-inch tall cylindrical speaker with a seven-piece microphone system, with a 360° omni-directional audio to maintain sound quality from every angle.
Its main purpose is as a voice-controlled personal assistant that responds to the name ‘Alexa’. The system microphone is always on, and the unit comes to life when it hears the ‘Alexa’ wake word, though this can be changed to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer”.
Once set up, it can then control lights, switches, thermostats and other household devices when connected to compatible devices such as WeMo, Philips Hue, Hive, Netatmo, Nest and tado.
If you’d prefer to use the Echo as an entertainment device though, you can command it to play music from platforms such as Spotify and Tuneln, and it will pick up your voice even if you’re in the middle of a loud party.
A helping hand
The Alexa Voice Service can read audiobooks, answer questions and update you on news, traffic and weather reports as well as tell you sports scores and TV listings, while the hassle can be taken out of baking by having the ingredients and recipe read out to you, measurements converted and your shopping list updated as you go.
Children’s bed times can be revolutionised with an audio book before lights off, and when you’re running late for work an update on the next available train can take some of the strain out of a rushed morning commute.
The Amazon Echo is designed to enhance your day to day life and make the little jobs easier with the help of ‘Alexa’- something we can all use a little help on.
Is Amazon Echo any use in the office?
Amazon Echo is brilliant when it comes to getting information, and I find it really useful to have around the office, particularly when I’m writing blogs and need bits of information – instead of breaking my concentration to do a search online, I just ask Alexa.
It’s also handy for finding out what I have in my scheduled that day, though not being able to use the voice-activated system to cross off tasks once they’re done is a little frustrating – hopefully this will be put right in any future software updates. And I’d definitely recommend the Echo if you work from home – you can get little tasks and reminders sorted both hands and fuss-free, and it can make the day a little less lonely.
It’s also worth noting Google has also released a similar personal assistant, the Google Home, which comes with the slightly cheaper price tag of £135.
The Amazon Echo Dot
If the Amazon Echo is a little too bulky or a little too pricey, the Amazon Echo Dot is a smaller and cheaper version, selling at £49.99. It’s essentially the same as the Echo, using the same voice-recognition technology and performing all the same functions as the Echo, but it does away with the speaker and instead connects to external speakers or headphones via Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable.
Are you a fan of the Amazon or Google personal assistants? If so, do you use them to help with the day-to-day scheduling and running of your business? Share your thoughts and experiences with our community here.
Guest post written by Claire Bowden
Claire is an Amazon Echo-convert and social media expert at EdgeThreeSixty web design Liverpool.