Black Friday arrived. And so did a price reduction on the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. I quickly setup the Echo Dot.
Now in terms of potential options that can connect to the Echo Dot, the list is fairly vast. But what you have to do is add a skill into the Alexa app. I connected my Belkin Wemo Smart Lights to the Echo Dot via a third party skill using an app to link everything. The app was called Yonomi. Alexa needed me to speak voice commands pretty precisely otherwise it failed to deliver the result I required. In fact, after getting my lights setup, it just stopped working with the lights. I also had issues with voice recognition. Several times, it decided I wanted to enquire about the price of goods and asked if I wanted to buy it.
To stop unwanted purchases, I strongly recommend adding a pin code which you will need to be spoken to confirm any expenditure.
Other things, like playing music and other miscellaneous items worked. A bonus is playing podcast. Just say Alexa, play Tech Addicts Podcast and it will play the latest episode. This is accomplished by Tunein Radio.
All these skills and services make the Echo quite compelling and gives it an advantage over any other option with the following proviso being its security.
The only part that worried me about the Amazon Echo setup is the security aspect, or lack of. Skills were added via a third party. Amazon had no 2 factor authentication. And what about these third party services and apps needed to add skills? Again, the security aspect is not controlled centrally by Amazon or with 2 factor authentication.
I have seen the HomeKit app on my iPhone 7 Plus for ages and it did nothing. So after being totally frustrated with the Belkin Wemo Smart Lights, I invested in the Philips Hue lights, which work on both the Echo and Apple HomeKit.
I decided to setup the Philips Hue in my living room first. It was so simple to install and setup. Then to link into the Apple HomeKit and Siri was quick and easy as well. Remote access is controlled by my Apple TV v4. You cannot activate remote access unless you have 2 factor authentication on your iCloud account. So unlike Amazon’s setup, the Apple solution feels and is far more secure. No third parties controlling the internet devices.
Now saying, Hey Siri turn on the lights, or change colour to red, blue, green or activate a scene, or dim or turn off is simply a breeze. You don’t need to speak an exact phrase, you can converse fairly naturally. Now obviously, my wife needs to be able to control the lights. So from HomeKit settings, I sent her an invite.
My wife appears, having accepted my invite, with HomeKit now setup on her iPhone and Apple Watch with all the scenes and lights that I had on my setup. So now she could just ask Siri to operate the lights. My wife hates technology. This is probably the first time I have seen her enjoying the experience of adjusting the lights and colour of the lights just by her voice. As the expression goes, it did just work.
I also know that the Apple solution is the better option, since my wife asked if I could install a few more around the house. Also, using your Apple Watch to control your lights is cool IMO.
The problem with HomeKit is lack of devices and services that connect to it, although it does have decent security.
Alexa vs Siri vs Google.
So now we get down to the different platforms and voice control. All three are different and all three work in different ways. Google is better at finding information from the web. Google now has its own Google Home system. Whilst it is early days for Google, it does show some great promise. Alexa needs to be spoken to in a precise manner and links well with Amazon services and a range of third party apps. I am concerned about the lack of security currently with Amazon’s setup. Alexa struggles to recognise my voice quite a bit. Siri is more like a virtual personal assistant that in my world works really well. And now Siri controls my home lightning in a natural way.
As to which system suits you best will depend on what you need it to do and what hardware you own! To have the sleekest home setup you may more than one system.
One thing is certain, and that is the future is going to be fascinating!