Smart home technology is just getting started, but a new product from Amazon could help bring it into the mainstream.

Called the Amazon Echo, this cylindrical speaker uses far-field voice recognition to receive and respond to your commands. For now, it appears to function primarily as a personal assistant — akin to Siri or Google Now — but assuming that happens, the future could be much longer.

What is Amazon Echo?

As you can see from the video, the Amazon Echo may have a standard speaker function, but there’s a lot more built into this little device.

bluetooth speaker

How Amazon Echo can make your home an Amazon Echo smart home

At first glance, the Echo looks like a regular Bluetooth speaker — and it does the job just fine. You can play any song or playlist at the volume you want to make it perfect for the occasion.

The device’s 360-degree speaker can play music from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and it also has built-in support for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

But Echo is much more than a speaker.

Personal assistant

Under the hood is a set of seven always-on microphones that can pick up your voice from any direction. When it detects the word «wake» — by default Alexa it lights up and sends your command to the cloud, where the Echo quickly processes and responds to your request.

Echo is always listening, but it has a built-in mute button in case you don’t like it.

When it comes to commands, it’s similar to current smartphone-based assistants like Siri. You can ask about the weather, request a specific type of music or playlist, add an event to your calendar, and so on.


Since his brain lives in the cloud and runs on Amazon Web Services, he is constantly learning and expanding functionality over time. And more importantly, the Amazon Echo is a standalone personal assistant. It’s not bound by the baggage or technical limitations of a smartphone, which will likely make it more intuitive than its phone rivals.

Interestingly, beauty is not included in the feature set. What makes the Echo great is that it’s completely hands-free, all the time. There are no buttons to press, and it doesn’t matter how close you are to the device. Siri demands the most things we like. Google Now and Cortana, and removes that last friction.


Amazon Echo is very easy to set up. Just connect it to your home Wi-Fi network and follow the installation process in the free companion app for Fire OS and Android, or in browsers for PC and iOS. Once you have it all ready, you can connect your devices to stream music via Bluetooth, or just give it verbal commands at any time.


Simple enough, right?


I’m an Amazon Echo fan since it exists today, but what really makes it interesting is what it can turn into.

Face of Smart Home Tech

How Amazon Echo can make your home a smart home

Echo is the perfect starting point for what could be the face of smart home technology. Think about it: you can interact with all the smart devices in your home just by talking to the Echo.

«Turn off the lights in the kitchen.» Turn off the lights.

«Set the temperature to 72 degrees.» Ready.

By always listening to voice commands, Echo can make it easier to control your smart home technology. No need to take out your phone and use the app. Just ask.

Amazon Instant Orders


Let’s not forget that this is an Amazon product, and that Amazon is first and foremost an e-commerce company. Why would an e-commerce company want to make a product like Echo? For the same reason, they want to make tablets and smartphones.

As TechCrunch’s Greg Kumparak points out, the Echo could eliminate the friction of Amazon shopping:

You will be able to say «Alexa, order me a copy of Kung Fu Panda 2» and it will be done.

«Alexa, order me Egyptian cotton sheets with lots of threads.» Bam. Performed. Sheets on the way.

Sure, it’s in Amazon’s best interest and some will surely object, but wouldn’t it make your life easier if you could place an order just by saying it out loud? This would be great for both Amazon and its customers.

None of this has been done at the moment, but there’s no doubt that Amazon will integrate shopping into the experience if it gains enough traction.

What do you think?

The market has to decide if the Amazon Echo succeeds or fails, like the Fire Phone. — but even if that particular device doesn’t shoot, there are likely to be similar competing products.

What about you? Can you see yourself with an Amazon Echo or similar device? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: CODE_n/Flickr

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