With Amazon’s Echo about to hit the shores of the UK, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to getting started with the ins and outs of Amazon’s super smart voice and speaker solution, perfect for whichever side of the pond you’re on.
So what exactly is the Amazon Echo?
At the most basic level, Echo is a wireless device that functions as both a centralized smart home control device and Wireless Bluetooth speaker rolled into one.
Powered by Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, the Echo can also provide information on anything you might happen to ask Alexa/it.
Standing at just under 10 inches (23.5 cm) tall, the Amazon Echo is the larger of the company’s offerings, but if you’re looking for something more compact, the Echo Dot stands at a tiny 1.5 inches in height while still containing all the bells and whistles of its larger sibling the full-blown Echo. The Dot is due for release in the UK later this year but is available for pre-order now.
As a wireless speaker system, Echo is able to stream your music or audio from specific services and also (via Bluetooth), from your own collection from your phone or tablet.
Think of the Echo as your personal smart home assistant and more specifically, think of your Echo as being called ‘Alexa’.
By speaking this ‘wake up word’ followed by a command or question when near the device, you immediately have a whole load of information and potential smart home control at the power of your voice.
From updating your shopping list to receiving the latest weather or traffic information, ask and you’ll receive.
What makes Echo even better however, is the ability to control a whole set of smart home devices from adjusting the light levels and temperature in a specific room to turning on the TV or coffee machine at your command.
Under the Hood
The foundation of the Echo is the audio equipment contained within its outer shell.
With an array of seven directional microphones using far-field voice recognition technology, Echo is always on the listen for your next command. The great additional thing about this is that sound-cancellation tech in the system means Alexa and Echo are able to hear you even when there’s irrelevant noise going on around you.
When you speak to Echo, an LED next to the microphone while light up and Alexa is listening.
The Echo features downward facing speakers which aim to fill the room Echo is in with 360 degrees of sound, whether playing music or providing you with information.
When it comes down to everyday use with the Echo, the options are pretty varied with a wide and growing choice of abilities to help you get things done, hands-free.
Here’s an example of an average day using the Echo:
Wake up to your own music collection or a streaming service using the alarm functionality.
Ask Echo to switch to the news and while you’re in the shower, to turn on your smart coffee maker.
Before heading out, ask Alexa if it’s going to rain today and what the traffic will be like on your route.
Your wife is now taking the car so you ask Alexa to call Uber for a ride into the office.
It feels a little colder this evening so ask Alexa to set the temperature to 20 degrees.
When you start cooking, ask Echo to find you a recipe and then to switch the radio to your favorite station.
Settle down on the couch and ask Alexa to dim the lights while you watch a movie.
Bedtime. “Alexa set the alarm for 7:30 am”.
The repertoire of skills that can be controlled using the Echo is growing, and paired with IFTTT commands, the range of controllable devices really starts to become impressive.
Connecting Echo to your Smart Home Environment.
The Echo is designed to work as a voice-controlled hub for smart devices like lighting (such as Philips Hue), Heating (such as the Nest Thermostat) and on other connected smart components for things like smart locks and plugs.
A full list of compatible devices can be found here but this list is increasing, almost by the day.
Connecting the Echo to your devices is a breeze and once done, you can then utilize the power of Alexa and your voice to control your devices.
Learn more about the Amazon Echo here