The best Alexa skills for smart homes
These are the best Amazon Alexa skills for making the connected devices in your house even easier to use... it's almost like magic. But in reality it's a cloud-based digital assistant and its skills doing the heavy lifting.
Alexa Skills for added security
Before you browse the specific products and skills that'll work with your Amazon Echo device, we being you some good news: Alexa is now a security guard.
If you have an Echo speaker or another Alexa-enabled gadget in your possession, you can now train selected smart home security systems to be activated by your voice.
Rolling out in the US first, companies like Abode, Honeywell, Ring, ADT and Scout alarm have already signed on to allow the new Alexa Security Panel Controller framework to interface with their systems, letting users control security features with their voices.
Users will be able to enable or disable alarms, trigger different security settings for when they are indoors, away or sleeping, and check in to make sure nothing untoward is happening.
Alexa skills for Philips Hue
There's not much that's cooler than using your voice to turn the lights on and off in your house, and the Philips Hue skill for the Amazon Echo lets Alexa do just that.
With the Philips Hue Amazon Echo skill enabled, the Alexa app will discover the Hue smart light bulbs installed in your house. As long as you've named the bulbs correctly, you can then say "Alexa, turn on bedside lamp" or "Alexa, dim the living room lights" and your AI assistant obeys.
One of the best things about the Philips Hue Amazon Echo skill is that you can tell Alexa to control specific lights, or all the lights in a certain room.
Alexa skills for Nest
If you have one of the Nest Learning Thermostats installed at home, then you'll want to enable the Nest Alexa skill, which gives you the ability to control the heating of your home with your voice.
With the Nest skill installed, you can say "Alexa, lower the living room temperature by 5 degrees", or "Alexa, set the bedroom temperature to 70 degrees" for example. There's no need to go to the trouble of opening up the app on your phone.
The Nest Alexa skill is being updated regularly to make it easier to control the temperature of your house using Alexa and the Amazon Echo. For example, you can now say "Alexa, I'm leaving", and the Nest Thermostat will begin lowering the temperature while you're away.
You can also say "Alexa, tell the thermostat that I'm too hot", and the Amazon Echo will tell the thermostat to turn down the temperature by a few degrees. You've got plenty of tricks to play around with.
Alexa skills for Hive heating
Hive is another big name in smart thermostats, and its Alexa skill works in a similar way to the one you get with Nest gear – allowing you to control the temperature of your home by simply speaking to Alexa.
Hive also has other smart devices, such as internet controlled light bulbs, so you can use the Hive Alexa skill to control your lights and more besides, once you've made the initial connection.
Alexa skills for Logitech Harmony
The Logitech Harmony range of products are universal remote controls that can control almost any entertainment device in your home, and with the right Alexa skill you can control these devices with voice commands too.
You'll need the Logitech Harmony hub for this to work: with it configured and the skill installed on your Amazon Echo, say "Alexa, turn on the TV" or "Alexa, turn off the DVD player" for example.
Lost your remote control and need to leave the room? Just say "Alexa, tell Harmony to pause" and your movie will pause. You can also set sleep timers and adjust the volume as well.
There are actually two separate Harmony skills for the Amazon Echo – the Harmony Skill and the Harmony – Optimized for Smart Home Skill. Get these both installed for the best results.
Alexa skills for Samsung SmartThings
Samsung has created a range of smart home appliances, and you can now control them with the Amazon Echo (or any Alexa-equipped device) thanks to the Samsung SmartThings Alexa skill.
With this installed you will have control over a huge number of compatible devices in your home, all just by using your voice. You've got a wide variety of voice commands to pick from, depending on which SmartThings device you've got installed.
Yonomi Alexa skill
Yonomi is a great Alexa Skill to add to your Amazon Echo, as it helps tie together all your smart devices, including brands like Logitech Harmony, Sonos, Belkin Wemo, Philips Hue, Lifx, Nest, Wink, Schlage Connect, Honeywell Lyric and plenty more.
With this skill you can create your own instructions for Alexa to run (known as routines), so you can use it to tell Alexa to turn on your lights, watch TV and at the end of the day say "Alexa, turn off everything" and all your devices will be turned off at once. If you're building a smart home, then the Yonomi Alexa skill is a must-have.
SmartPlant Alexa skill
Like the idea of being green-fingered, but always seem to find that the plants you bring into your home have as much chance of living a long life as a fairground goldfish? Then check out the SmartPlant Alexa skill.
SmartPlants can be found in all good garden and hardware centers, and come with a barcode unique to the species of plant they are attached to. Scan them in the app, and then you'll be given information on how to care for the plant, tailored to your greenery.
Pair it up with the Alexa skill, and all those tips and all that caretaking advice is then just a voice command away whenever you need it.
August Alexa skills
If you've got an August Lock and Connect installed as part of your smart home setup, then go and grab yourself the August Smart Home Alexa skill. Once you've connected up your accounts you'll be able to lock down your home with just the power of your voice.
This is also great for those who worry about the security of their home when they're relaxing or trying to sleep, as you can ask: "Alexa, is the front door locked?" from the comfort of your settee or bed, and get an answer right away.
iRobot Home Alexa skills
If you're lucky enough to have a smart Roomba vacuum whizzing around tidying up your smart home, then make life even easier and sync it up to Alexa. With the iRobot Home skill you can tell your Roomba to clean, stop cleaning and dock, or if it's acting weirdly you can say: "Alexa, ask Roomba what it's doing", which is handy and kind of hilarious at the same time.
Lifx Alexa skills
If you've opted for the Lifx smart lighting system over the Philips Hue or its competitors then the good news is you don't need a separate hub to get it up and running: just install the Lifx skill on your Alexa device and you can control your lights with your voice, from turning the bulbs on and off to changing colors.
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Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.