If you're the person who asks "how to set up a smart home with Alexa" you aren't alone. Over 100 million Alexa devices have been sold. Voice control is one of the main drivers for many people automating their homes for the first time.
Let’s face it, taking charge of mundane household tasks using nothing but a few barked commands is appealing.
To make that happen, you’ll first need a smart speaker or smart display so you can bring Amazon Alexa out to play…
Since the first Echo smart speaker was launched back in 2014 for Amazon Prime members, these dinky devices have penetrated our homes by the millions.Today, you've got a fantastic choice of smart speakers and smart displays. The only difference between the two is a screen of various sizes.
Here’s a swift snapshot of the Echo range as it stands today:
- Echo: The original Echo is now into its second generation and gives you an affordable entry-point to Alexa’s many skills
- Echo Dot: A small device ideal for kids – you've even got some kid-friendly special editions to choose from – Echo Dot is going from strength to strength. The third generation gives you Alexa in a tint footprint
- Echo Spot: The smallest smart display ideal for use in the bedroom as an alarm clock, Echo Spot is a low-key trailblazer
- Echo Plus: The key selling point of the second-generation Echo Plus is the integrated Zigbee hub. The Echo Plus allows a broader control of smart devices without a third-party gateway in place
- Echo Studio: Looming Echo Studio – release date is November 7, 2019 – brings immersive high-fidelity sound to Alexa for the first time
- Echo Show: Dominance of original smart display, Echo Show is now retooled and better than ever before with its 10-inch screen adding a new layer to Alexa
- Echo Show 5: Echo Show 5 halves the screen size and allows you to take Alexa more comfortably into the bedroom. Don't worry; you'll be able to disable the mic and camera physically, so you've got no privacy concerns.
- Echo Flex: Echo Flex plugs directly into a power outlet allowing you to take Alexa up into the attic, down into the basement or on stairways where she would otherwise find access problematic.
There's no right or wrong choice here. You should take the time to think carefully about how, precisely, you'll press Alexa into commission. Personalize your buying decision, and finding the right Echo device is a cinch.
So, with the hardware in place, what’s the deal with Alexa routines, then?
What Is An Alexa Routine?
Alexa routines let you make things happen automatically.
You can create routines to kick in:
- At a specific time each day
- When you issue a dedicated Alexa command
- Whenever you arrive at home or leave home
- When your alarm goes off in the morning
An Alexa routine is a way to get fully into the spirit of home automation. Convenience is one of the twin pillars smart home technology is built upon, security being the other. With routines, you'll streamline day-to-day operations using nothing but a tiny smart speaker and the power of your voice.
So far, so good.
How, then, do you go about setting up an Alexa routine?
How To Set Up an Alexa Routine
The first thing to clear up is that you don’t need to be a tech wizard to get fully involved with Alexa routines. Setting them up is easy. Using them is even easier.
So here’s how you get going…
- Open up the Alexa app
- Hit the hamburger icon top left then tap Routines
- Tap the + icon top-right to open a tab for a new routine
- Hit When This Happens to set up the trigger for the routine
- Add Action allows you to link a corresponding action for the trigger you created. Once you get more confident, you’ll be able to build in multiple actions to a single routine
- Hit Save, and you’re good to go
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to set up an Alexa routine in 1 or 2 minutes. You'll only need a little longer if you're creating location-based routines. Adding more actions also increases the time a little.
The bottom line, setting up a routine is super-simple.
Luckily, altering routines is just as straightforward.
How To Edit an Alexa Routine
Follow the first three steps above, so you've opened up a routine.
You then tap the routine you'd like to edit and make any changes.
It's also possible to delete a routine so you'll keep everything lean in-app.
As with all technology, you can expect to run into some limitations and difficulties when you first get started with routines. Fortunately, you can get around most of these without too much trouble.
Limitations and Workarounds
The main restriction is the inability to have Alexa execute customized voice commands. Instead, you'll have to arm yourself with what's available in the Actions menu. This prevents you from automating playback on Fire TV and limits interaction with third-party skills.
If you’re looking to build your smart lighting into a routine, routines, struggle to dim multiple lights as part of a group. You can get around this by adding lights individually then setting the brightness levels separately. While this is a slight hassle to sort out, once done, you'll be all set on an ongoing basis.
When it comes to music, for some reason, you can only introduce sound as the final stage of a routine. The sole workaround here is to create another Alexa Routines and have them run back to back.
Location-based triggers are super-helpful, but control them to a single user. If you need broader functionality than this permits, you’ll want to start exploring IFTTT (If This, Then That).
With those basic sketched in, how about some practical examples of Alexa routines?
5 Alexa Routines To Get Started
1) Waking and sleeping
When you wake up in the morning, why not create a routine to make your day start more easily?
Instead of being forced by the sound of an alarm, let yourself gradually wake with the lights turning on slowly. Or during the cold winter have the temperature adjusts itself automatically. Then the next Alexa routine gives you a news and traffic update, head downstairs to a coffee machine already brewing. All you'll need in addition to Alexa to make that happen is a smart plug.
At the other end of the day, how would it feel to simply command, “Alexa, goodnight” to get the lights dimmed and some soothing sleep sounds playing?Create the morning and evening routines that mesh best with your lifestyle so you can start and end your days the right way without needing to lift a finger.
2) Automate tasks upon arriving at home
Location-based routines might be slightly advanced to set up but, once you're up and running, this is perhaps one of the neatest routines to implement.
How would you like to come home to:
- The lights turning on
- Your preferred temperature kicking in
- Your favorite playlist greeting you
- Alexa also greeting you with a “Welcome home.”
Again, feel free to play around with the various elements of this routine until you’ve personalized it perfectly.
3) Keep your kids busy and on schedule
Do you have a tiny Echo Dot in your kids’ room?
If so, you can make full use of routines to stay on top of scheduling.
Throw in a motion sensor and ensure your children get a gentle reminder to tidy up their room. You can switch these messages up daily to keep up with their chores.
You’ll also be able to get Alexa routines announcing what your children need to do across Echo devices in the house. From telling them to get ready for football practice to letting them know what the weather is like so they can dress appropriately, from playing some of their favorite music to announcing it’s time to hit the road, you’ve got a world of choice with kid-friendly routines.
4) Ramp up security in your home when you’re away
One of the most practical ways to harness Alexa routines is to give the impression someone is home house even if you're chillaxing on the other side of the world.
You can build out a simple routine for each day of the week, so your home looks like it's busy, and you can keep any potential burglars away.
With minimal effort, use Alexa to protect your family and smart home.
5) Someone opening a door? Get an announcement
Yet another chance to make do of a multipurpose sensor attached to a door or window.
If the sensor is triggered, you can have Alexa announce that the door or window is open across Echo devices in your home.
Think of this as a traditional home security system at a fraction of the cost.
Well, whatever kind of Echo device you have – and you’ve got increasingly more to choose from these days – you should be all set with creating routines now.
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