Amazon Echo smartens up about businesses in your back yard

The Amazon Echo taps into a new service to help you find the best shops, restaurants and other firms nearby.

The Amazon Echo is wising up to what's going on in your back yard.

Users in the US can now ask the voice-controlled smart speaker for info on local shops, restaurants and other businesses.

The speaker relays queries to an online virtual assistant dubbed Alexa, which can answer queries, play music and video and control smart products in the home.

Drawing on details from Yelp, the Echo can now respond to commands such as "Alexa, find me a nearby Chinese restaurant." or "Alexa, what are the hours for a nearby pharmacy?" Users of the Alexa app on phones and tablets can view further details about their chosen business, such as its star rating and phone number.

The Echo can already answer questions about what activities are taking place locally via its StubHub feature.

ZDNet has detailed various tips of and tricks for getting the most out of an Echo, such as how to use the speaker to run a smart home and how to make it more useful using If This, Then That recipes.

Earlier this year, ZDNet's James Kendrick said the Echo became the most useful device in his home and in the months since he made that recommendation Amazon has continued to expand the number of services and products the Echo can control.

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