How to get started with an Alexa intelligent home

July 5, 2017 - table lamp

How to get started with an Alexa intelligent home

Here’s how we can start regulating Alexa to control your intelligent home.

by Kaelan Doolan

If you’re a unchanging reader here during CNET, afterwards you’ve substantially beheld an awful lot of stories about Amazon’s practical partner Alexa — quite a many ways in that she can take control of a connected home.

There’s good reason for that. Voice control has spin a intelligent home’s gateway drug of choice, and Alexa’s been right during a tip of that spear, with standardised control over lights, locks, and some-more as a core use case. In a meantime, Amazon’s sole millions of Echo and Echo Dot intelligent speakers, and third-party manufacturers have put Alexa into all from lamps and thermostats to TV sets and refrigerators.

In sum, Alexa is only about everywhere these days — and that means that there’s an ever-growing series of people looking for ways to put her to good use for a smarter, some-more available vital space. If that sounds like you, and you’re looking for a tiny superintendence on how to get started, you’ve come to a right place.


Tap that microphone in a top dilemma of a Amazon app and we can g ive Alexa a doubt or authority — no intelligent orator necessary.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

1. Get an Echo product (or don’t)

If we wish an Alexa-controlled intelligent home, you’re going to need to entice Alexa in. For many people, that means picking adult an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot intelligent speaker.

The latter of that is roughly positively your best bet. At only $50 and with all of a same Alexa functionality as a full-size Echo, it’s one of a best bargains in all of tech. Setting it adult is easy, too — only block a thing in and follow a Wi-Fi pairing instructions in a Alexa app on your mobile device of choice.

That said, we don’t indeed need to spend a singular cent if all we wish is to take Alexa for a exam drive. Download a Amazon app and record in with an Amazon account, and you’ll find a tiny microphone idol in a top right dilemma of a home screen. Give it a daub and we can speak to Alexa, no orator necessary. The Amazon app pitches it as a voice-shopping feature, yet she’ll also control your intelligent home inclination if we have any related with a Alexa app.

2. Think about location

One other thing you’ll wish to cruise about as we move Alexa into your home is where you’re going to put her. You can use your Echo anywhere we like, so prolonged as it’s in operation of your home’s Wi-Fi vigilance and a energy outlet. Whether that means we put it in a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or vital room is adult to you, and a choice unequivocally depends on how you’re formulation on regulating it.

The bedroom creates a lot of sense, generally if you’re meditative of regulating Alexa’s alarm underline to arise we adult in a morning. Add intelligent home control to a picture, and we could tell Alexa to spin a lights off as we settle in for a good night’s sleep, or ask her to spin a thermostat down if a room gets too hot. Then again, if we watch a lot of cinema and like to low a lights before attack play, afterwards Alexa competence be improved off in your TV room.

That said, there’s zero interlude we from holding an all-of-the-above proceed by picking adult some-more than one Echo product. The Echo Dot’s low cost — maybe Alexa’s biggest advantage over rivals such as Siri and Google Assistant — comes into play easily here, as we can get 3 of them for a same cost as a singular Amazon Echo.


The Belkin WeMo Mini intelligent block pairs easily with Alexa.

Ry Crist/CNET

3. Set adult your intelligent home devices

It substantially goes yet saying, yet Alexa can’t control your intelligent home inclination if we don’t have any intelligent home devices. The good news: There are lots and lots of opposite gadgets that’ll work — and our best-of list can assistance we collect one out. 

My go-to recommendation is a $35 Belkin WeMo Mini intelligent plug. It’s cheap, it’s easy to use, and it’ll let we spin anything we block into it on and off only by seeking Alexa. Before we can do that, though, you’ll need to set a device adult like normal. Like with many intelligent home gadgets, a messenger app will travel we by a routine in a matter of a minutes.

Part of that setup routine typically involves giving your device a name. This is an critical step since that name is what Alexa will use to brand a device when we give a command. To collect a good one, keep things clear, short, and as curt as possible. “Alexa, spin on a list lamp” is a heck of a lot easier than “Alexa, spin on Ry’s list flare WeMo Mini.”

4. Sync your gadgets with Alexa

Once your inclination are adult and running, you’ll need to deliver them to Alexa to let her start determining them. In a lot of cases, you’ll only need to say, “Alexa, learn new devices.” After about 10 seconds of scanning, she’ll supplement whatever gadgets she finds into a Alexa app, and you’ll be prepared to start revelation her to control them.

In other cases, we competence need to lift adult a Alexa app and capacitate a special ability before revelation her to scan. Just go to a app’s intelligent home territory and name “Smart Home Skills.” From there, we can hunt for a ability we wish to capacitate — some, such as Lutron and Nest, competence need we to supply your login certification in sequence to sanction Alexa to take control.


You’ll find your devices, groups, and scenes listed in a intelligent home territory of a Alexa app.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

5. Set adult groups and scenes

If you’re regulating Alexa to control some-more than one or dual devices, afterwards you’ll substantially wish to start organisation things together so we can control some-more than one device during a time regulating a singular Alexa command. You’ve got dual ways to do this: groups and scenes.

Groups are only what they sound like — mixed inclination tied together behind a singular organisation name. For instance, if we have dual intelligent bulbs in your kitchen called “kitchen light 1” and “kitchen light 2,” we competence emanate a organisation called “kitchen lights” that includes both of them. Then, we could spin both lights on during once by observant “Alexa, spin on a kitchen lights.”

To make a group, only go to a intelligent home territory of a Alexa app and daub on “Groups.” Select “Create Group,” afterwards give it a name and name a inclination we wish it to include. Easy enough.

Scenes, on a other hand, let we move mixed inclination to pre-established settings all during once. Scenes are a tiny opposite than groups, since we don’t emanate them in a Alexa app. Instead, we import scenes in from your inclination themselves, supposing that those devices’ apps offer a approach to emanate them.

Lifx color-changing intelligent bulbs are a good example. In a Lifx app, we can emanate scenes that can move several bulbs to specific tone and liughtness settings all during once. You could, for instance, make a stage called “July 4th,” that changes 3 intelligent bulbs to red, white, and blue. When we ask Alexa to learn new devices, she’ll find scenes like that one, too. From there, we can ask her to activate it by saying, “Alexa, spin on Jul 4th.”


Start small, get used to Alexa, afterwards cruise adding a few additional inclination to your set up.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

6. Fine-tune as we go

You can urge your Alexa intelligent home setup as we go by creation tweaks to your inclination and a approach we keep them organized. One of my favorite tricks is to put a singular device into a group, afterwards give it an swap name in sequence to assistance enhance Alexa’s vocabulary. For instance, if we have a “desk lamp” in your Alexa setup, we could hang it in a organisation of a possess called “table lamp” so that both “turn on a list lamp” and “turn on a list lamp” would work.

Another pretence along those lines: whenever we give Alexa a command, Amazon will record what she hears in a Alexa app. If she keeps removing tripped adult by one of your commands, we can lift out a app, see what she’s incorrectly hearing, and afterwards adjust your device and organisation names accordingly. As an example, in my home, we have a gratifying flare for a holidays that we named “holiday lamp,” yet Alexa kept conference “hallway lamp” when I’d try to spin it on and off. All we indispensable to do was put a flare into a organisation called “hallway lamp,” and voila, my authority would work even when Alexa misunderstood me.

That kind of fine-tuning can assistance beam we by a light enlargement of your setup. Start small, get gentle with how Alexa works, and afterwards build outwards, bit by bit. It won’t take prolonged for your Alexa-powered intelligent home to take shape.

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