Amazon today announced a number of new smart features designed to allow Alexa device owners to better control their smart home — some of which don’t even require the Alexa device owner to interact with the virtual assistant by voice. These features expand on tools Amazon has rolled out to make Alexa more proactive and predictive, including things like its automated Alexa Routines, smart home suggestions known as Alexa Hunches, and its home security features from Alexa Guard.
As a result, the company says that now more than 30% of customers’ smart home interactions are triggered by Alexa without users having to say anything. At its virtual event today, Amazon introduced a handful of new additions that will also allow Alexa to do more in the background, among other additions.
One of these is a feature that will let you turn on or off smart home devices at some specific point in the future. For example, you can ask Alexa to turn off the lights at 9 pm or in 10 minutes, allowing you to schedule these sorts of smart home interactions.
Alexa will also now gain support for remote switches instead of only wired smart switches. This allows users to push a button to trigger certain Alexa actions — like reading the news or turning off the lights — without having to use their voice. This can particularly help those with speech disabilities better interact with Alexa. And the support for remote switches offers more freedom as to where these are placed in the home.
This particular addition follows an update that brought the Tap to Alexa feature to Fire tablets, which had supported Bluetooth switches, as well.
The Echo and Echo Show devices (fourth generation) will also now be able to function as a hub for older devices on the network through new functionality called “Alexa Edge Extensions.” This would allow, for instance, an older Echo Dot user to connect to a newer Echo Show 15 to adjust the volume, control the lights or get the date and time — even if the older device isn’t connected to the internet. The hub devices will handle the local voice processing for the supported connected devices, Amazon notes.
A new “Smart Home Suggestions” feature, coming soon, will allow Echo owners to have Alexa proactively notify them via an Echo Auto device if they’ve left the house and Alexa “has a hunch” that nobody is home and the front door is unlocked. When users hear this notification, they can ask Alexa to lock the door for them.
Meanwhile, the Alexa Together service which allows caregivers to use Alexa to keep watch over elderly family members, will now be able to receive notifications related to smart home devices, like when doors are locked or if lights go on at odd hours, and more.
A final smart home update isn’t necessarily about Alexa’s assistant working in the background but is rather focused on convenience.
Amazon says Echo Show device owners will be able to view multiple smart home cameras simultaneously on their screen via a new multicamera view feature. On Echo Show 5, they can view two cameras, while on all other Echo Show devices, including Echo Show 15, they can view up to four compatible smart home cameras at the same time.