Amazon’s smart speaker Echo and its digital assistant Alexa are a simple and powerful way to control a huge range of kit. So if you’ve got one of your own – or you’re thinking of picking one up in future – we’ve put together this pick of the five smartest and most useful Echo-compatible gadgets.
Smart home technology is changing the way we live – and Amazon’s Echo in particular is taking the world by storm.
Its smart assistant Alexa is even becoming something of a celebrity, making cameos in TV shows from Mr. Robot to the South Park. But with so much attention being paid to the technology, you might be wondering what exactly it can do...
The answer: a lot!
From controlling your lights to tracking your sleep, Echo and Alexa link up with all kinds of household gadgets to make your life easier – and here’s our pick of the best:
The Nest smart thermostat is an iconic ‘Internet of Things’ gadgets in its own right – and while it’s unlikely to impress visitors in the way pulsating, colour-changing lights will, it’s a very practical bit of kit. Better yet, it could also save you money on your energy bills!
With Nest, you can control your home’s heating from your smartphone, wherever you are. That means you can make sure the heating’s bumped up an extra few degrees when you’re heading home from work on a cold day – or, on the other hand, make sure the heating doesn’t come on too early if you’re going to be late home.
That’s incredibly useful in itself. But with Echo and Alexa, it’s even better: you don’t even need your phone by your side to control the heating. “Alexa, make it a little warmer in here” is all you need to say.
OK, so you’ve saved a few pounds on your heating bill – now it’s time to impress your friends and family. Philips’ range of Hue lighting offers the perfect way.
The Hue range includes lamps, bulbs and lighting strips, all of which can be linked together and controlled from a smartphone app – or, much more conveniently, from your Amazon Echo.
With Echo, when it’s time to watch a movie, all you need to say is “Hey Alexa, dim the lights”, and it’s done. But the Hue range can do much more than that: the more advanced bulbs can display more than 16 million different colours, giving you loads of wild and creative options for decorating your home.
“Alexa, switch all the lights in the living room to purple” might not be something you say every day. But it’s perfect for parties – and bound to impress your houseguests.
This particular gadget is fairly unassuming on its own, but gives you the power to turn any old electrical device into a piece of smart home kit. Simply plug it into an electrical socket, plug any other equipment into it – and that’s it!
A simple Alexa voice command let your turn it on and off with your voice, either alone or in conjunction with any of your other smart home kit.
This gives you the power to control everything from lamps to amps – and by combining it with a regular household extension lead, you can easily turn on multiple devices at once for a low-cost smart room setup.
The potential here is only really limited by your imagination. And when you come up with a new use for it, you can just unplug your old kit and get going!
Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for a while, but Neato’s Botvac Connected steps things up by taking advantage of Alexa’s powerful voice commands.
Even without voice control, the Botvac is a really sophisticated piece of kit. It uses laser scanning, continuous room mapping and real-time object detection to plan its route through your home, so it spends less time bumping around – and more time actually cleaning. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery, and will even navigate back to its charging station automatically when it’s running low on juice.
All of this makes it a great addition to your connected home. But Alexa makes it even better. When your floor’s looking a little untidy, just say the words: “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning,” and away it goes. And if you get a phone call or otherwise need a little peace and quiet, you can also ask it to pause!
Fitbit make some of the most popular and fully featured fitness trackers on the market – and if you’re an Echo owner, their Charge 2 is the perfect choice.
This gadget tracks your daily step count, distance covered, calories burned and heart rate. It also monitors your sleep – and can even wake you up with a silent alarm.
But actually viewing all that useful data can be a little inconvenient. Sure, you could take a look on your smartphone, or on the device itself – but we reckon it’s far easier and more comfortable to have Alexa read it to you.
So just ask “Alexa, how many steps have I done today,” “how well did I sleep last night” or “what’s my current heart rate,” and you can find out. All of a sudden, you’re not just reading a written report on your health and fitness – you’re having a conversation with your personal coach!