These days, having a voice-activated digital assistant in your pocket is pretty much taken for granted. Instead of typing on tiny touchscreens, we've all become accustomed to simply whipping out our phones and saying, "Hey Cortana, call Dad," or "OK Google, dial 911," or "Hey Siri, what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
So it's no surprise, really, that a similar digital assistant, Alexa, has rocketed Amazon's Echo to the top of the electronics sales charts month after month for more than a year now.
So, why has Amazon Echo been such a huge hit? Mostly because Alexa it does it all. She plays music for you. She gives you the news and weather. She manages your shopping lists and calendar appointments. She even tells you jokes, for goodness' sake. And best of all, she can turn your home into a voice-controlled sci-fi dream, giving you the ability to dim your lights, adjust your thermostat, lock your doors, fire up your Keurig, turn up your ceiling fan and more, using nothing more than the sound of your voice.
Actually, strike that. The best thing about Alexa is that she actually works. And she works with more and more smart home devices all the time, some directly, and others via smart home hubs like SmartThings,Wink, and most recently Nexia as well as smart security panels from places like Vivint.
The advantages of adding a compatible hub to your Amazon Echo control system are numerous; it not only vastly expands the number of devices that Alexa can control, but also the types of devices under her command. And having a hub in place also gives your voice commands more power by allowing you to link interoperable Z-Wave devices. Say you have a SmartThings hub, for example, programmed to turn on the porch light if you lock your front door after dark. In that case, you wouldn't need to tell Alexa to do both; simply saying, "Alexa, lock the front door" at night could automatically trigger the programming that also illuminates the exterior of your home.
And that's just one example of way the smart home is evolving to include innovative control methods that make your home more intuitive to control than even the most imaginative science-fiction writers could have ever dreamt of. Scene controllers like the Nexia One Touch, for example, allow you to literally change the look of your entire home at the touch of a single button. And FIBARO’s new gesture controller SWIPE allows you to manipulate the devices in your home by simply waving your hand in the air like some sort of sorcerer.
The only thing that could be easier would be controlling your home with the power of thought alone, and we're not quite there yet. But with Alexa voice control combined with the power of Z-Wave, we're close enough that it still seems like magic.