It's been a busy day for Amazon's voice-activated virtual assistant. This morning, the online mega-retailer announced Alexa's long-awaited arrival in the UK and Germany, along with the launch of a new, second-gen Amazon Echo Dot mini-speaker that costs just $50.
In the wake of all that, we're seeing a steady stream of Alexa announcements from third parties eager to hop onto Amazon's bandwagon. Among these announcements is the debut of a new Alexa skill from home automation service provider Control4. Enable it, and you'll be able to trigger any of the thousands of gadgets that Control4 supports with a simple voice command.
The interesting thing here is that those voice commands include triggering preprogrammed scenes, where multiple gadgets simultaneously fire off in different ways. For instance, you could trigger a "Good Night" scene that locks a smart lock, turns the lights off and sets the thermostat to a comfortable sleeping temperature. A "Game Time" scene could dim the lights, lower the shades and turn your TV and gaming console on, all with a single voice command.
Those scenes are a mainstay of Control4 setups -- so much so that the smart-home-as-a-service provider offers customized wall switches to trigger each one with a button press. To trigger them with Alexa, you'll just need to tell her to turn them on, as in, "Alexa, turn on Game Time."
That's largely the same scene-centric approach that Apple has taken with HomeKit, its iOS-based platform for the connected home. With HomeKit (and a house full of HomeKit-friendly gadgets), you can program scenes on your phone, then trigger them with a Siri command.
It's new ground for Alexa, though. Until now, she's been able to turn individual gadgets on and off, as well as groups of lights, but she hasn't been able to trigger preset scenes with a mix of gadgets, at least not without help from an additional service like IFTTT. That changes today -- and Control4 isn't the only one taking advantage. Philips Hue's in the mix, too, with new, expanded Alexa controls that let you trigger mixed-color lighting scenes.
A luxury home automation retailer, Control4 combines high-end audiovisual hardware with a dealer-installed smart-home control system that supports a claimed 10,000 connected home gadgets. We're planning on taking the system for a spin in the CNET Smart Home in the near future -- when we do, we'll be sure to test out those Amazon Echo controls for ourselves. For now, you can see Alexa's scene management skills for yourself in this video.