How to Make a Smart Tiny Home With Amazon Echo
Living in a Smart Home
One of my favorite things about Tiffany is how intelligent she is! I have always been a techy nerd growing up, thanks dad, and continue to read and read tech websites to try and stay informed on the latest and greatest. I think it's becoming more prevalent in my generation to integrate technology into our homes and living spaces. Luckily there are some solutions to make this easy and at the heart of it all currently is the Amazon Echo.
Here's what we use
Most of Tiffany can all be controlled through an Amazon Echo. They also make an Amazon Dot in case you're an audio junkie and already have a speaker you want to use instead of an Echo speaker and looking for something at a more competitive price.
At first, I was not very impressed with the Echo.It's a black cylinder the size of a tennis ball can and can be a real eye sore as far as a piece of technology goes, comes in white or black. Has some LED lights on the top/side to give visual notifications which can become helpful to know when it hears you. The top of Alexa does rotate which makes for a clever way to change the volume faster rather than asking her to turn it down to the exact volume you're looking for, which can become a pain after yelling at her. If you say the hot word "Alexa" a LED indicator comes on in the direction it hears your voice. By saying, Alexa, you can command actions such as asking it questions you might ask Google, set a timer or even turn on your porch light off when you slip into bed. The Echo is equipped with seven microphones which are great for really any size room or in our case, tiny home! We even can have the AC unit and ceiling fan on high and Alexa can still hear us across Tiffany! #impressive
How do you use it?
Install was pretty simple. You plug it into the wall outlet and download the app. The app walks you through setting it up with you Amazon account. Alexa will find different devices it can connect to throughout the environment. Took a total of maybe 10 minutes. From there we continue to ask it jokes and mindless things like " What do you think of Google?" or "Spell (insert inappropriate word of your choice)" #childforever Worked flawlessly.
As a tech nerd, I started to do some more research on what Alexa (the name of the Artifical Intelligence) could actually be capable of doing. Pretty much anything you can think of if you have the right products and an Internet connection. There are tons of different products that work with Amazon Echo including Lutron Caseta , which we will have a separate review here shortly on the Lutron system on controlling our lighting system, smart plugs to turn things on and off , Nest Thermostat that will learn your habits in order to save you on energy consumption, Security Cameras , even an essential oil diffuser (which didn't work well for us 😁). There's so much.
On top of having 1000's of products to choose from there is an app called IFTTT. (Which stands for If That Then This) It is an app that is an open source platform for people that want to make command codes for items or task they find useful with different types of products. A great example we use is that if our Nest Protect detects smoke or CO2 it automatically turns on all the lights in Tiffany through our Lutron Caseta system in case it's at night and we can not see and there is smoke in Tiffany. Side note: I am working with someone to help code a command to turn the fan and AC unit on to try and move the smoke around in case of an emergency. 🚨
Is it worth it?
I find myself asking Alexa questions rather than pulling out my phone to jump on Google, spelling of words or even add something to my shopping list for the store! The number one feature I use is asking Alexa to play music from Spotify. If I like a song and do not know what it is, I can ask Alexa to save it to a playlist, it's amazing since I use Spotify while driving for work or trying to get muscles in the gym for hikes. The fact that I can ask Alexa to connect to my phone in order to use her as a Bluetooth speaker is worth it in itself in my opinion. There is something so futuristic when you're listening to a playlist on the Echo and you leave and hop in your truck and the same playlist automatically plays where you left off. I even am starting to go into other homes catching myself about to ask Alexa to turn on or off the lights from being so used to her in our tiny home.
Overall the Echo is a no brainer if you're looking to make your home smart. Is it essential in your home? No, but if your hobby is technology advancements or disabled then you'll love it. Amazon has done a great job at making it software open source allowing anyone to create software and hardware that is compatible with their ecosystem, compared to tech companies that are correctly plating catch up in this category. I think long term the Echo is the right choice if you're trying to figure out which company is going head first in the Smart Home automation with good support from third party companies.
Got any SmartHome things you find useful in your home!? Share in the comment section below!