Amazon is making a great effort to make Alexa -- the smarts behind the Echo -- a full platform. This effort includes enabling developers to add "skills" to the Echo, Tap, and Dot products. To aid developers in this process Amazon has released an API -- the Smart Home Skill API -- for the home automation segment.
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Smart lighting development tools for the Echo originally appeared last year and have been fleshed out to make the new Smart Home API which is now part of the Alexa Skills Kit. In addition to the home automation skills, this kit contains all the development tools produced for adding a range of functionality to the Alexa platform.
The Smart Home API enables building controls for most major consumer brands of products in this segment, including WeMo and Philips. This includes smart lighting and thermostat controls for using Alexa to interact with all aspects of the smart home.
Examples of such voice control are numerous, including telling the Echo by voice:
"Alexa, set the temperature to 72 degrees".
"Alexa, turn the hall lights on".
Skills for Alexa enable wide-reaching functionality not part of the official OS used by the Echo. They can be written by professionals and amateur developers which can be enabled by each device owner if desired. Examples of existing skills are those that check public transport conditions in real-time and others that track packages.
Skills developed using these new tools from Amazon should start appearing for smart home control. Amazon wants Alexa to soon be a big part of home automation.