A huge amount of households now have either an Amazon Echo device in them, and consumers are beginning to get used to how to use them. However most users are only using a small percentage of their potential, and some are unaware of all of the extra things that these devices can provide.

Making the most of the audio options

Music services

Amazon Echo has the potential to deliver virtually any song or radio station instantly. Many users have already set this up, but for those that have not you can link your account to a choice of Amazon music, Spotify, Tunein and Deezer. Advice from Amazon on linking the accounts can be found here.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201628770

Each music service contains a monthly subscription, and they are all a similar price, generally users will use their existing music service, however if you are setting up for the first time, and want to use this with your Echo device, you will get the most functions from Amazon music.

Whole home audio

A great feature of the echo is the ability to create a whole home audio system, allowing you to set up groups of speakers that can play the same music simultaneously. Advice from Amazon on setting up whole home audio can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202108910

Audio books

You can also listen to audio books through you Echo device, you are able to link this to your Amazon Audible account, this is a paid subscription service, Advice from Amazon on setting this up can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201730410

Amazon Echo gen 2 music
Amazon Echo gen 2 music

Making the most of the audio options

Music services

Amazon Echo has the potential to deliver virtually any song or radio station instantly. Many users have already set this up, but for those that have not you can link your account to a choice of Amazon music, Spotify, Tunein and Deezer. Advice from Amazon on linking the accounts can be found here.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201628770

Each music service contains a monthly subscription, and they are all a similar price, generally users will use their existing music service, however if you are setting up for the first time, and want to use this with your Echo device, you will get the most functions from Amazon music.

Whole home audio

A great feature of the echo is the ability to create a whole home audio system, allowing you to set up groups of speakers that can play the same music simultaneously. Advice from Amazon on setting up whole home audio can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202108910

Audio books

You can also listen to audio books through you Echo device, you are able to link this to your Amazon Audible account, this is a paid subscription service, Advice from Amazon on setting this up can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201730410

Echo spot and smart home

Making the most of the visual options

Connecting to your TV

With some additional components your Amazon Echo device can also control many aspects of your TV.

If you have an Amazon Fire stick device, you are able to turn on the TV and fire stick (with a modern TV with HDMI CNC) and then search for and open TV shows, movies and apps, by voice command.

Advice from Amazon on connecting your fire stick can be found here

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202174250

If you want to control a set top box, or control the volume or playback on your TV, you need a Logitech harmony hub, this will imitate your existing remote, and allow you to control any IR device.

Using Echo Spot or Echo show

The Echo spot and Echo show devices also allow you to request media to be shown directly on that device via voice command.

Adding your own photos

To display your own photos on your echo spot, echo show or Fire TV, you can connect to a prime photos account. This allows you to use the device as effectively a digital photo frame, with some very clever options like “show photos of (person name)” or “show my (album name) album”. Advice from amazon on how to set up and control are found here.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202158670

Connecting to a smart home

Controlling your lighting

There are a good number of 3rd party systems that can be set up to control your lighting a few of these include, Phillips hue, Lightwave RF, Energenie Mihome, Lifx, Osram smart+. Selecting the type of lighting system you go with takes some planning and consideration, as there are many dependencies from the type of bulbs and switches you have in your home, to the functions that you require. Too many options to list in this article, but you can always contact us to discuss your needs. These systems would be connected via their own skills in the Amazon Alexa skills listings, and once connected with many of the systems you are able to control the status, brightness, colour and tone of your lights via commands to your Echo.

Controlling your heating

Again this would mean connecting your Amazon Echo to a 3rd party system, with once again many different options including Nest, Energenie Mihome, Tado and Hive. Each of these are an add-on to your existing heating system, and would generally need a professional installation. These again would be connected via their own skill. Once installed and connected to your Amazon Alexa account you are able to simply request Alexa change your heating settings.

Viewing your doorbell

Only 1 option available for this at the point of writing this article, and that is the Ring video doorbell. When this is connected to your Amazon account via the Ring skill, it can be viewed on your Echo spot, Show or Fire TV. Allowing you to view the doorbell video by voice request. However you cannot yet speak to the person at the doorbell.

echo dot smart home
echo dot smart home

Connecting to a smart home

Controlling your lighting

There are a good number of 3rd party systems that can be set up to control your lighting a few of these include, Phillips hue, Lightwave RF, Energenie Mihome, Lifx, Osram smart+. Selecting the type of lighting system you go with takes some planning and consideration, as there are many dependencies from the type of bulbs and switches you have in your home, to the functions that you require. Too many options to list in this article, but you can always contact us to discuss your needs. These systems would be connected via their own skills in the Amazon Alexa skills listings, and once connected with many of the systems you are able to control the status, brightness, colour and tone of your lights via commands to your Echo.

Controlling your heating

Again this would mean connecting your Amazon Echo to a 3rd party system, with once again many different options including Nest, Energenie Mihome, Tado and Hive. Each of these are an add-on to your existing heating system, and would generally need a professional installation. These again would be connected via their own skill. Once installed and connected to your Amazon Alexa account you are able to simply request Alexa change your heating settings.

Viewing your doorbell

Only 1 option available for this at the point of writing this article, and that is the Ring video doorbell. When this is connected to your Amazon account via the Ring skill, it can be viewed on your Echo spot, Show or Fire TV. Allowing you to view the doorbell video by voice request. However you cannot yet speak to the person at the doorbell.

Echo spot voice calling

Making the most of communication

Using broadcast

A fairly new feature of the Echo is the ability to broadcast a quick message across all devices by saying “tell everyone (message)” or Broadcast (message)” A great way to let your family know dinner is ready, or time to get up.

Using calling, drop in and messaging

The calling or drop in features allow you to use your Echo device as both a phone or intercom system. Allowing you to make calls from echo to echo either within your own account, or to any of your contacts who also own an alexa device. This can also be done direct from a phone or tablet that has the app linked to the Alexa account, and with the show and spot you can also do video calling.

Amazon advice on calling and messaging can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202136190

Details on Drop in can be found here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202153130

Making the most of the organisational functions

Using Calendar

When linked to a 3rd party calendar through the settings section of the Alexa app, you are able to add new calendar events and recall calendar events from Alexa via voice command. You have a choice of linking Google, outlook or Icloud calendars.

Using lists

One of the first features ever available in Amazon Alexa, You can create shopping lists and a to do task list.

Using timers

You can set a timer so that an alarm sounds after a certain period of time. This is especially helpful when cooking.

Using shopping

You can search for and order items straight from Amazon. Generally when purchasing an item buyers like to see an image of what they are buying, so this is better with the Echo spot or Echo show. It is key that you set up the pin protection on buying to keep your account safe.

Using reminders

A fairly new feature in Alexa you can ask to be reminded of any task at any time, these can also be set up as daily or weekly reminders e.g. “remind me to take my pill every day at 6:30” or “remind me to take the bins out every Thursday at 7pm”

Using alarms

You are able to request an alarm for any day at any time, and also set these up to be daily or weekly

Voice assistant for cooking
Voice assistant for cooking

Making the most of the organisational functions

Using Calendar

When linked to a 3rd party calendar through the settings section of the Alexa app, you are able to add new calendar events and recall calendar events from Alexa via voice command. You have a choice of linking Google, outlook or Icloud calendars.

Using lists

One of the first features ever available in Amazon Alexa, You can create shopping lists and a to do task list.

Using timers

You can set a timer so that an alarm sounds after a certain period of time. This is especially helpful when cooking.

Using shopping

You can search for and order items straight from Amazon. Generally when purchasing an item buyers like to see an image of what they are buying, so this is better with the Echo spot or Echo show. It is key that you set up the pin protection on buying to keep your account safe.

Using reminders

A fairly new feature in Alexa you can ask to be reminded of any task at any time, these can also be set up as daily or weekly reminders e.g. “remind me to take my pill every day at 6:30” or “remind me to take the bins out every Thursday at 7pm”

Using alarms

You are able to request an alarm for any day at any time, and also set these up to be daily or weekly

echo dot lifestyle

Running routines

When you really start using a large amount of these functions, you will really begin to be throwing many orders to your Amazon Echo device, fortunately the routines section of the Alexa app allows you to create multiple actions for a single command. For example, if you have a smart home set up, and you also use this for music, you can simply say, “I’m going to bed” and Alexa can switch all of you lights, your TV and power sockets off downstairs, switch on your bedroom lights, and start music playing in your bedroom. Or you could say “it’s dinner time” and Alexa will switch the lights to the correct mood in the dining room, turn on music in the dining room, and switch off other devices in the rest of the home. Very recently Amazon also added the function of custom responses, so you could add a response to the dinner time command from Alexa of “enjoy your meal” just for that extra personal touch.

Making the most of the skills

Skills are add-ons to the Alexa service from third parties, a little like apps for your smart phone. There are now 1000’s of skills that work with Amazon Alexa, and these can take a long time to go through, so we have highlighted a few of the best ones found in the UK listings here for you.

Making the most of the skills

Skills are add-ons to the Alexa service from third parties, a little like apps for your smart phone. There are now 1000’s of skills that work with Amazon Alexa, and these can take a long time to go through, so we have highlighted a few of the best ones found in the UK listings here for you.

Amazon Echo top

Making the most of available information

Most users still have difficulty working out what Alexa will be able to answer, and what it won’t.

Just a few things that Alexa can provide answers to are:

  • Local business information – You can ask for local businesses by type, or ask for the phone No or location of those local businesses.
  • Local cinema information – You can ask for local cinema’s and find out what is playing and when
  • Weather information – You can ask for weather for up to 7 days ahead
  • News – You can ask Alexa what’s in the news
  • Traffic information – You can ask about the time for your commute (when you have added you home and work locations) or ask how long it will take from any location to another.
  • Movie information – You can ask what actors are in a movie, details about them, release dates and more.
  • Music information – You can ask for a great deal of information about songs and artists.
  • General knowledge – There are many general knowledge answers that Alexa can provide, on history or geography etc.
  • Maths – Alexa can do virtually any calculation for you
  • Spelling and definitions – Alexa can provide you with the spelling or definition to any word
  • Sports information – Alexa can provide fixture and results information for hundreds of sports teams
  • TV listings – Alexa can provide information on what is in the TV listings

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