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Friday, November 09 2018 10:25

Holiday Wish Guide: Starting a Smart Home with Amazon Echo Plus

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This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

When the "smart home" movement started a few years back, I set up a few devices here at our house... and quickly removed them. At the time, the concept was solid, but the technology wasn't quite there yet and it seemed that the experience was lacking a central hub to pull it all together. Then Amazon came along with Echo and Alexa and all of that changed. Now, with the all-new Echo Plus, we're establishing a smart home as it should be - one that works both with and for our family, seamlessly integrating with technology and people in increasingly unexpected and very much appreciated ways.

Amazon Echo Plus with Phillips Hue Smart Lights

Right out of the box, the second-generation Echo Plus is super-easy to set-up. I just plugged ours in, downloaded the app and in a few short steps it was rolling. With our new Phillips Hue Smart Lights and our existing Ring system, I simply said, "Alexa, discover my devices" and within a few moments everything was discovered and integrated. 

Our family room downstairs has always a been a bit challenging with lighting since it's a long, rectangular room set below our kitchen, and there's no hardwired, switch-controlled lights. On the far end we have two lamps that are kind high-up (hard for others in the house to reach), and when we enter the darkened house, they're at the other end and have always needed to be turned-on by hand... until now. With a pair of dimmable, Phillips Hue White bulbs, I created a "device group" in the Alexa app called "downstairs lights." Now we can just say, "Alexa, turn on/turn off/dim/brighten the downstairs lights" and it's all good. It's the convenience and function that a smart home should be - and it's just the beginning. In fact, I shared a little video on Instagram this morning to showcase some of what we've been using our Echo Plus to do...

 
 
 
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Our Echo Plus is an entertainment hub that plays music from both Amazon and Spotify (other services are also available) in quality sound. I'm able to ask Alexa for my daily briefing to get news headlines spoken to me as my wife and I get the kids ready for school and brew our morning coffee, complete with the current forecast. One of the unexpected bonuses: Alexa can help our girls with their homework. Since they're little (6 and 9), they'll occasionally ask Alexa for help with spelling, and that's pretty awesome.

Echo Coffee

With so many different expansion devices available and a near-endless assortment of skills (functions) and routines that Alexa can perform, I plan on expanding our smart home with additional lighting, smart plugs, an Alexa-compatible thermostat and additional Ring cameras. Of course, you can also shop using Alexa (I have that shut off via parental controls), and there's also stories, games and more. Plus, I'm really looking into expanding our entertainment options for the entire family with options like the Fire TV Cube and Echo Dot Kids.

Amazon Echo

Whether you're setting up a smart home for yourself or thinking of a thoughtful gift for others, the Echo Plus is a Holiday Wish Guide™ Pick for one of 2018's finest innovations - a simple way to start your smart home!

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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