The Amazon Echo Dot is a general purpose “personal assistant” that listens to your voice and can provide information on the weather, news, sports, and many other kinds of information with add-on apps called “skills”.
A huge feature of the Dot (and all the Amazon Echo devices) is that with the appropriate add-on hardware from other companies it can control lights, door locks, security cameras, thermostats, and many other smart home devices with just your voice. (It is really awesome and I encourage everyone to actually try it out in person.)
The most popular products in the Amazon Echo family are the Echo (the tall cylinder) and the Dot (the small hockey puck). The Dot is very affordable (retail price is $49), but the bigger difference is that although the Dot only has a tiny internal speaker (not so great for playing music), it has an AUX output stereo cable and can be plugged into your media center or family room full-blown stereo receiver / surround-sound setup for high-quality music.
The Dot is great for voice-controlled home automation because the internal speaker is just right for feedback to confirm your control commands. When you say, “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lights” the Dot can reply by saying “Ok” letting you know it heard the command was able to comply.
This is so convenient that many of my clients have purchased multiple Dots and sprinkled them throughout their home in different rooms and locations. Anywhere they walk around they are within “voice distance” for speaking commands. (The Echo’s are smart enough so that if two or more units hear you speaking, only the one closest to you will respond and the others will remain silent.)
Ok, so far everything I’ve described costs money and I asked if you wanted to have voice control for free, so stay with me….
Amazon has a few other more specialized versions of the Echo product line. The Echo Look has a camera and is focused on fashion advice and shopping (I did a brief “quick look” writeup here: http://bit.ly/2s00357). The Echo Show adds a touch screen so you can use it for videoconferencing (sort of like Skype or FaceTime), but the device I want to highlight is the Amazon Dash Wand.
The Amazon Dash Wand is a $20 handheld, battery powered wand that has a built-in barcode scanner. Amazon has designed this for use with the grocery delivery service called Amazon Fresh. The idea is that whenever you need to re-order groceries, you just pick up the Dash Wand and scan the barcode on the can or box. That adds the item to your shopping list and automates the process of re-ordering and having it delivered right to your home. (I have not gone into all the details and there are safeguards to prevent your kids from ordering hundreds of candy bars, etc.)
The TOTALLY AWESOME and TOTALLY IGNORED cool capability is that the Amazon Dash Wand includes a microphone and speaker and Amazon Alexa support. You can press a button (because it is battery powered it is not always listening) and then speak most of the same Amazon Alexa commands that you are already using on your Dot or Echo.
You can’t use the Dash Wand to play music (wouldn’t make much sense anyway) but it fully supports all the Amazon home automation commands. So the Dash Wand is a portable, hand-held, battery powered voice remote control for only $20! The Dash Wand is great for putting on your night stand, your coffee table, your kitchen counter, or anywhere you want in your home. Now you have a convenient way to control your lights, your TV, your thermostat, or any home automation devices you have connected.
You can either leave it in one location (it has a magnetic on the back so it will stick to any ferrous metallic surface and it has loop and optional hook with sticky tape) or you can take it with you. This is perfect for use by children, guests, or anyone in the home that doesn’t carry their smartphone with them all the time (yes, there are people that do that).
Here’s the (almost) free part – The Amazon Dash Wand costs only $20 and if you are an Amazon Prime member (and who isn’t, right?) Amazon will give you a $20 credit on your Amazon account for future purchases. So as long as you plan on spending at least $20 more on Amazon in the future, you can get the Dash Wand for free.
Is there a catch? Yes – you are only allowed to buy one Amazon Dash Wand per Prime Member / customer!
Here’s a convenient summary set of links:
Amazon Dash Wand product information: http://amzn.to/2vij3NW
Amazon Echo product information: http://amzn.to/2uZnACd
Amazon Echo Dot product information: http://amzn.to/2tleql5
Amazon Echo Show product information: http://amzn.to/2tp45oF
Amazon Echo Look product information: http://amzn.to/2uWKhbD
If you would like to learn more about automating your home, visit our website at www.DoItForMe.Solutions
What do you think about voice remote controls? Are they a frivolous toy or a crucial part of your home automation system? Let me know what you think.