Amazon’s Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant that is capable of many things such as, “voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information, such as news”. Alexa is also compatible with a wide variety of other home automation products and hopes to be the main hub where commands are issued. Most devices allow wake words like “Echo” to be used, while some others require buttons to be pushed or tapped.
The image above is Amazon’s main echo line up, but does not include the Echo Show, Dash Wand, and Echo Look. Many other third party manufacturers also create devices that the Alexa voice platform can run on.
Just like your phone, Alexa can become smarter through the addition of apps, otherwise known as skills. They can add lots of interesting functionality and improve the user experience greatly. Skills are made using the Alexa Skills Kit, which is publicly available to anyone looking to develop for it.
Home automation is also a big feature that Alexa has. It can interface with products from a wide variety of manufacturers, including Belkin Wemo, ecobee, IFTTT, Insteon, LIFX, LightwaveRF, Nest Thermostats, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Wink, and Yonomi.
If you have an Android phone, you can use Tasker or IFTTT in order to control parts of your house with Alexa. You can see me turning on my computer with no additional hardware with these two services in a previous post.
As you can see, Alexa is a growing platform that has unlimited potential that needs more and more developers to improve. I suggest you go to https://developer.amazon.com/alexa-skills-kit/tutorials in case you wish to learn how to build your own personalized skill.