Amazon Echo’s voice assistant Alexa is ever-present in the AI world. The Echo is the best-selling device on the market, and it boasts a variety of capabilities beyond what we could have imagined from consumer technology just a few years ago. The question is no longer whether Alexa is useful for consumers, but rather how to get the most out of her 25,000-plus skills and more than 4,000 connected devices.
Consumers often purchase digital assistants with smart homes in mind, but with so much functionality available, it can be hard to pin down exactly how Alexa can contribute. Here are the top smart home devices to pair with the assistant.
Smart lighting: Philips Hue
Smart light bulbs are an entry-level investment for anyone building a connected home, and Philips Hue is consistently ranked the best of the bunch. These devices save on energy costs, and users can turn them on and off or set them to fade at pre-scheduled times to accommodate routines. This means no more coming home to a dark house at the end of the day or stumbling around blindly in the early-morning hours.
Hue bulbs come in white and color versions, and you can ask Alexa to change power, color, and brightness with a simple voice command. For those looking to expand their smart home capabilities within the Hue ecosystem, Philips sells complementary accessories, like light strips and motion sensors.
Smart heating and cooling: Ecobee 4
While Ecobee isn’t the best-known name in the smart thermostat game, it gets high marks for learning user patterns to deliver optimal heating and cooling, which in turn enhances comfort at home and saves energy and money. Ecobee uses additional room sensors to collect data about your home and adjust accordingly.
The Ecobee 4 has built-in Alexa capabilities, so you don’t actually need an Echo to get the most out of its functions. In addition to controlling temperature, your smart thermostat can read you the news, tell you jokes, and integrate any number of Alexa’s many skills.
Smart security: Scout
Alexa can anchor your whole home security system. Scout is a portable, wireless system with DIY setup and optional professional monitoring. It uses a network of connected sensors and alarms to keep your home safe and secure even when you’re away. You can choose how many features and sensors you want based on the size and needs of your space.
Once you install Scout in your home, you can connect it to your Echo to activate voice commands that allow you to check whether your system is armed as you head out the door, see which sensors are working, and call for assistance in the event of an emergency.
Smart camera: Cloud Cam
Indoor security cameras can be a security system add-on or standalone smart feature of your home, and Amazon built its Cloud Cam with Alexa integration in mind. The device has been well-reviewed by consumers and tech enthusiasts for offering decent features at a reasonable price point.
Cloud Cam has push notifications, night vision, two-way talk, and motion sensing, which (with a subscription) will distinguish between people’s activity and general movement. A subscription will also unlock the ability to block off certain parts of rooms, or zones, from detection. You can use Alexa to turn the camera on and to switch between views.
Runner-up: Netgear Arlo Q
Smart kitchen: GE + Geneva
You can pair Wi-Fi-enabled appliances from GE with Alexa for a next-level smart home. The GE WiFi Connect line of ranges, refrigerators, and dishwashers integrates with Alexa’s Geneva skill so you can preheat your oven, boil water for tea, and confirm when the rinse cycle will finish. GE also makes connected washers, dryers, and air conditioners.
Even without smart appliances, Alexa has dozens of skills to improve your cooking — and companies are increasingly bringing AI capabilities to the kitchen with gadgets like the Anova Precision Cooker.
For current Alexa users and those who are curious, the skill possibilities and smart home device pairings will only continue to expand, especially as other virtual assistants grow their own offerings to compete with Amazon.
Emily Long is a writer who covers tech, home automation, and finance, with the occasional dive into health and wellness.