Bump up your home’s IQ: The smart home devices with Alexa skills
We are entering the time of the “Internet of Things” as we create our own smart homes. And Amazon’s Alexa certainly rules the roost when it comes to smart home integration. Amazon’s voice assistant is bringing even more impressive integrations to your countertop. Here’s a list of some of the hottest new gadgets with integrated Alexa skills.
Amazon Echo (4th gen)
Amazon Echo (fourth-gen) is the best smart speaker with serious Alexa skills out there. The new shape sets Amazon’s Echo speaker apart. Where the third-gen Echo offered a barely noticeable sound quality improvement over its predecessor, the ball-shaped fourth-gen version has noticeably better audio output, including respectable bass for a speaker in its price range.
On the smart home front, the fourth-gen Echo also gets a built-in Zigbee receiver. The Zigbee receiver lets the new Echo function as a smart home connectivity point for compatible light bulbs, plugs, and other Zigbee-based accessories. That means you can use the Echo itself as a hub, without the need for an additional piece of hardware to get those devices online. You can get it at around $100 on Amazon.
Wyze Cam Security Camera
The third-gen Wyze Cam is one of our favorite cameras overall. It comes with weatherproof housing, sharper night vision than its predecessor, a wider field of view, a loud siren, and more – including 14-day video clip storage and a built-in microSD card slot for local storage.
If you have an Echo Show smart display with those killer Alexa skills, you can also throw the Wyze Cam’s feed onto the screen with a simple voice command. You can find it for around $20 at Wyze.
Ring Peephole Cam
Ring’s Peephole Cam is a unique product. Rather than mounting to a door frame or to the side of your door, the Peephole Cam replaces a traditional peephole. It’s perfect for apartment dwellers who want a smart doorbell, but don’t want to deal with a hardwired device – or otherwise messing up a door frame for the installation. It’s easy to install and has advanced Alexa skills.
You can pull up the live feed on an Amazon smart display, but you can also chat with whoever’s at your door via the built-in speaker on the smart display with the command, “Alexa, answer the front door”. That two-way talk feature using an Alexa smart display is unique to Ring devices. You can get it at Amazon for around $130.
Note: In December 2019, thousands of Ring users’ personal information was exposed. Ring has since updated its security policies, from offering customers a Control Center dashboard to more easily access privacy & security settings to require two-factor authentication.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is a connected thermostat with Alexa compatibility. This model replaces the Ecobee4 smart thermostat, but has a lot of the same great features. Control your Smart Thermostat via the Ecobee app and use Alexa, Google Assistant & Siri voice commands to adjust the temperature.
It’s Alexa’s voice control skills that really stand out here, though, since the thermostat itself has a built-in Alexa smart speaker. That means you don’t need a separate Echo device – just connect your thermostat, enable the speaker, and start asking Alexa questions. You can get it for around $249 at Ecobee.
Amazon Echo Show 8
The Amazon Echo Show 8 is Amazon’s latest smart display. You get an eight-inch screen with the best resolution of any Echo Show yet, a camera shutter, and all the smarts of previous Amazon smart displays.
The Echo Show 8 has a built-in Alexa speaker so you can use this smart display’s skills to have your Alexa digital assistant do your bidding, whether that be asking it to play music, relay the weather or just tell you a joke. And, since it’s a smart display, it also offers advanced compatibility with Alexa-enabled security cameras. Regularly $130, it’s on sale at Amazon for $79.99
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
August’s Wi-Fi Smart Lock retrofits to most standard deadbolts, so you don’t have to deal with a complicated installation. The built-in Wi-Fi makes it possible to access and control your smart lock remotely via the Android or iOS app without needing an August Connect module.
This product comes with an open/close sensor – called DoorSense –that attaches to the door where your Wi-Fi Smart Lock is installed. That way, the app can not only tell you whether the door is locked or unlocked, but also if the door is open or closed. You can lock & unlock your door from an Alexa-enabled smart speaker using your voice. Regularly priced at $249 it’s on sale at Best Buy for $211.99.
Smart home reality
Privacy has become an increasing concern as smart speakers & displays grow in popularity. Reports that Amazon keeps transcripts of your voice conversations, even after deleting the Alexa audio recordings, led to concerns over user privacy. Sen. Chris Coons wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seeking answers about Amazon’s Alexa user data and how it’s stored.
Amazon has since introduced the “Alexa, delete everything I said today” feature. The tech giant says it’s also working on new ways for customers to delete their transcripts.
As our homes learn more about us, keeping them secure will become all the more important. Every device that’s connected to the Internet is a potential target for hackers. Any kind of massive breach that turns off consumers, says Daniel Cooley, chief strategy officer at electronics-component manufacturer Silicon Labs, could be catastrophic for the industry. “I call it a mass-extinction event for the Internet of Things,” he stated.
Are you an Alexa enthusiast? Let us know what you think in the comments.