How to turn Amazon Echo into the brains of your smarthome

Follow these simple steps to introduce Alexa to your smarthome devices or hubs and your wish will be her command. No need for apps when you can just tell Alexa what to do.

When talking about smarthomes, the Amazon Echo might not be what comes to the top of your mind, but it should. The cloud-centric always listening hardware makes for a fantastic interface for anyone in your house to control all types of connected devices with simple voice commands.

I've had my Echo set up with a Wink hub for several weeks, easily controlling four lights in my home; I have a connected door lock and other related items on the way to add to my smarthome.

Before even walking into some rooms, I simply say "Alexa, turn on Office," and the room is lit before I enter. Many of the lights are on schedules as well; we never leave any bulbs left on all night as a result.

So it's easy to use an Echo to control objects in the house, but is it easy to set up? Absolutely.

That's because some smarthome systems are cloud-based, just like the Echo is. You do have to set up the Echo and a smarthome hub separately; after that though, you're just a few minutes away from putting Alexa to work around the house.

I'll use my own setup process to tie the Echo and Wink hub as an example; it's not likely that different with other hubs.

The Echo itself is simple to set up in just a few minutes. Note that you need the companion Echo app for iOS, Android for that process. You'll also need it to link the Echo to any smarthome products. I also needed a companion app to set up my Wink hub. That too is a simple process as the app walks you through the steps: Create an account, plug in the hub and use the app to add bulbs, locks, thermostats, sensors or any other supported smarthome products.

Now it's time to introduce Alexa to the Wink.

  • In the companion Echo app, look for the Settings option and choose Connected Devices.
  • Under the Device Links section, tap the Link with Wink option.
  • You'll be prompted to sign in to your Wink account, which gives Amazon access to it.
  • Once you get a confirmation screen of the link, tap the X at the top right to close it.
  • Under the Devices section, tap the Discover Devices option; this will let Amazon read your Wink account settings to see your connected devices. (You'll actually hear Alexa tell you how many devices she found.)
  • At this point, you can voice control any of the devices by saying "Alexa turn on/off [device name]".

If you have Wink devices grouped together like I do, you'll have to re-create those groups manually for Alexa. Don't sweat it: Just tap the Create group option under the Groups tab. Name your group and tap the devices you want in it. For example, I have two bulbs in my family room, so I group them together to work in tandem.

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Now you're all set to have Alexa turn on the lights, lock your doors or change the temperature in your home; assuming you have more than just connected bulbs in the house, that is.

Bear in mind that certain device features aren't yet supported by the Echo. Although my lights can be dimmed using the Wink app, Alexa can't dim them by voice; she can do that with Philips Hue bulbs, though.

Don't forget to run through the Discover devices option any time you add new smarthome gadgets to the house. That way Alexa will know all about them and control them with your spoken word. And even if you have a different hub or devices than I do, you'll still follow the same general steps in the Echo companion app as outlined.