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Technology

Alexa can now control your smart gadgets, without your commands

If you’ve got an Alexa-enabled device and a few smart home devices, chances are you’ve used her to control those gadgets. After all, using your smart speaker to control other smart gadgets is a no-brainer. Why do more work than necessary?

Being able to control smart devices with Alexa is one of the best features your smart speaker offers. Plus, you can use your Echo to automate other parts of your life, too. Don’t know where to begin? Try these 13 helpful Alexa skills you’ll use time and time again.

But while it’s easy to control your smart devices with Alexa, that feature isn’t always as intuitive as you’d like. That’s going to change, though, thanks to a new feature being rolled out. Alexa is now able to control your smart home gadgets without your voice commands. Here’s how it works.

Here’s the backstory

Ready to have Alexa take on a more active role in your home? Good, because an exciting new feature was just enabled on your Alexa device to let your smart speaker do just that.

This new feature was enabled as part of Hunches. When Hunches initially rolled out, the goal was to remind you of what to do for smart devices based on your normal habits. Nothing was done automatically, and Alexa would remind you about a task and ask permission before acting.

With this new feature enabled, Alexa can identify any smart devices you’ve left on and then turn them off for you. This gives direct control of some smart devices to Alexa in exchange for a more automated smart home.

That said, there are some limitations. Here’s what you need to know about the new Hunches feature:

  • It can be used to turn off lights, adjust the thermostat or complete several other tasks.
  • Must be enabled through the Alexa app to work.
  • Not automatic; you manually choose which devices Hunches can control through the Alexa mobile app.
  • Currently limited to smart lights, plugs and thermostats.

It’s worth noting that you can also choose to use this feature for some smart devices and not others. For example, you can allow Alexa to adjust the thermostat automatically but not your smart lighting. Or, you can give Alexa control of your smart plugs. It’s up to you to customize for your needs.

How to use this new feature

Hunches is automatically enabled in your Alexa app, but this feature isn’t. If you want to give Alexa more control, you’ll need to toggle this feature on and set the hunches you want it to act on. As a reminder, it only works with smart lights, plugs and thermostats, so keep that in mind when you’re setting it up.

To turn on automatic actions in the Alexa app:

  1. Open the Alexa app.
  2. Open More and select Settings.
  3. Scroll down and select Hunches.
  4. Select Set up automatic actions.
  5. Select the hunches you want Alexa to act on. For example, have Alexa turn off the lights when it’s bedtime or adjust the thermostat when you’re not home.

You also have the option to turn the feature off if you decide it’s not for you.

To turn off Hunches:

  1. Open the Amazon Alexa app > tap More at the bottom of the screen to open the menu
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Scroll down and select Hunches
  4. Use the toggle to turn off Hunches

Other Alexa-related updates to note

There are two other Alexa-related updates worth noting.

Guard Plus

Guard Plus is a subscription feature meant to help you call for assistance in an emergency or monitor your home with Smart Alerts while you’re away. Some of the more notable features include:

  • Access to an Emergency Helpline
  • Trained agents to dispatch emergency responders, including police, the fire department or an ambulance
  • Intruder detection by Alexa
  • Smart Alert mobile notification
  • Siren sounds on your Echo to deter break-ins
  • Integrates with popular security plans for extra protection

These features are all meant to help you protect yourself and your home in emergencies. This service is available via a subscription, which costs $4.99 per month after a free trial or $49 for a year after the free trial.

A new energy dashboard

The other feature worth noting is the new energy dashboard for Alexa. This feature makes managing your home’s energy usage easy by tracking the energy your devices use. Here’s what the new dashboard will tell you:

  • An overview of the energy your compatible devices use
  • Personal insights, helpful tips and recommended actions
  • Trends week over week, or month over month

It can be used in tandem with Hunches to control and limit energy use by the devices in your home. This new feature works with smart plugs, lights, switches, water heaters, thermostats, TVs and Echo devices.

All you have to do is toggle on the Energy Dashboard icon in the Alexa app to use it.

The bottom line

New tools just keep rolling out for Alexa, and these new features and dashboards are a great addition to the mix. They’ll help you gain more insight into your habits and energy usage and help you automate your home.

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