Smart homes are no longer reserved for the wealthy and super tech-savvy. Anyone with a modest budget and some basic know-how can get started on automating various functions around the house.
From lighting to security to entertainment, a smart home takes care of your everyday tasks and can enhance your living experience. Tap or click here for our guide on building a smart home at any budget.
A virtual assistant forms a solid smart home foundation. You can control other smart devices, ask questions, research, set reminders, play music and so much more. New features are constantly being added by developers so there’s always more to do. If you have an Amazon Echo, or you’re considering one, let’s jump into one of the best things you can do with it: Set up handy routines to make life easier.
Getting started with routines
You can ask Alexa to tell you a joke or give you the weather forecast for the weekend. Ask her to play you a song or to dim the lights. While Alexa can perform tasks and answer questions right out of the box, you can take things to the next level with skills.
Skills are like smartphone apps that let you do more with Alexa. You can use them to order food, play games, shop, get recipe ideas and countless other tasks. There are tens of thousands of skills available in the Skills Store, with new ones being added all the time. Tap or click here for some helpful skills and commands.
A quick privacy note: Only a small percentage of Alexa skills have privacy policies in place. Before you enable one, we suggest you do a little digging. Tap or click here for more info.
String together some commands and/or skills and you get routines. These shortcuts save you time and automate Alexa’s more complex actions.
Set a routine by opening the Alexa app and tapping the hamburger navigation button in the bottom-right corner. Tap Routines, then the plus icon to open the New Routine tab. Select When this happens and follow the steps to pick what starts the routine. Then select Add action and follow the steps to pick what happens. Finally, tap Save.
Here are some suggested routines for you to try out.
1. Waking up
Alarm clocks are old news. Why not wake up to your favorite playlist? A routine can also switch on your smart light bulbs to keep you from dozing off again.
Having trouble getting through to Alexa? Tap or click here for tips on getting your smart assistant to understand you better.
2. What’s on the agenda?
The old routine (pardon the pun) of turning on the news and checking your calendar can now be automated through Alexa. Set up a routine where your voice command gives you the news headlines, weather forecast and traffic report for your morning commute. While you’re at it, let Alexa tell you what’s going on that day, whether it’s a birthday or an important meeting at work.
3. Leaving for the day
Whether you leave for the day or the week, peace of mind regarding securing your home is priceless. Alexa Guard is a feature on Echo devices that acts as a virtual house sitter. It can listen for unusual sounds, such as glass breaking, and alert you when this happens. It can send you a clip of the sound so you can take action, such as calling the police.
Guard can also connect to your smart lighting to make it appear that someone is home. It can even turn on the TV to provide the same illusion.
While Alexa Guard is better than nothing, we do recommend a full-fledged security system. Kim’s pick is SimpliSafe, a sponsor of her national radio show. Getting started is easy. Pick out all the components you need online, have it shipping right to your house, and set it up yourself in about 30 minutes. Get a free HD security camera when you use Kim’s link.
4. Returning home
Alexa can act as a welcome home committee, too. This can be proximity-based, so you don’t need to say a word. When Alexa detects that your smartphone has arrived back home, she can turn on the lights, play some tunes and set the thermostat to your desired temperature. She can welcome you home yourself or announce your return to Echo units throughout the house.
Smart assistants and speakers are great for home automation, but don’t neglect the rest of your home. Tap or click here for five things you should get done around the house before summer arrives.
5. Movie mode
Ready for a cozy night in? Activate “movie mode” to dim the lights in your living room, close the smart blinds, turn on the TV, and power on your streaming devices, soundbar and any other gadget you use to chill out.
With a little imagination and a handful of connected devices, your Echo is capable of a lot. Try out these routines and let us know what you think!