It’s hard to believe that Amazon Alexa Virtual Assistant has only been in our homes for just three years, seeing as it and its rivals have become so entrenched. Launched in November 2014 as part of the Echo Smart Speaker, Alexa was intended to be akin to the computer from the Star Trek original series – in fact “Computer” is one of the devices’ settable wake-up words.
Since then, Alexa has become increasingly connected around our properties, and can now be used to control a bewildering number of products from lighting and heating to door locks and security cameras and is likely to become even further ingrained in our lives. Among the best devices available now are:
Insteon Hub. While everyone seems to be talking products, the Insteon Hub is looking to control almost anything electrical in your home, and to do it through Alexa as well as an App. Insteon have developed a series of smart devices that all connect to the hub and can be operated remotely by interaction through your device or by shouting at Alexa. Door locks, light switches, smoke detectors – not sure why you want to switch them off – thermostats, and motion cameras are among the many devices that the Insteon can handle. Hand control to your life to a small box of metal and plastic!
Neato Botvac. Make cleaning less of a chore by getting someone else to do it – or something else in this case. Robo-vacuums have been round for several years but the Heato Botvac is amongst the best on the block. With a unique ‘D’ shape that allows it full access to corners for a complete clean, and with sufficient battery power for a ninety-minute clean even on the Turbo mode before it returns to its charging station. Botvac can be started, stopped, and paused via voice controls through Alexa, so that’s the cleaning sorted.
Netatmo Weather Station. Normally, if you ask Alexa for a weather forecast, you’ll get a generic prediction from a national weather bureau rather than what may actually be happening right near you. However, if you connect the Netatmo to your Echo or Dot, you get a detailed analysis of what is happening right at your door. And it’s not just weather either; the Netatmo can give a detailed rundown of CO2 concentration, humidity, and even noise pollution levels too, so you’ll get a highly detailed breakdown of your local atmosphere, rather than just the weather.
Fire TV. With 4K and Alexa voice control, the latest version of the Fire TV stick can bring together all of your favourite shows in high definition. Tell Alexa to search or give keywords and have it delivered straight to your TV.
August Smart Lock. Giving over control of entry to your Alexa might seem to be edging towards the unacceptable, but the built-in security features of the latest generation of door locks will stop worry. Designed to connect with Alexa through a Smart Phone App, you no longer have to stress about lost keys and can also check that your doors are locked at any time, and with easy installation, you’ll wonder how you got by without it.
Taken from the May 2018 issue of Geek Parenting, out now!