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Amazon gives Alexa some cool new smart home tricks

Amazon Alexa platform has proven to be easy to work with for makers of smart home appliances like lights and locks. But it has run somewhat behind other platforms in terms of functionality. The company tried to narrow that gap somewhat today with the announcement of some new Alexa features.

Alexa can now do “scenes.” Amazon calls them “routines,” sets of actions that can be triggered by a single voice command. So a voice command from the user saying “good morning” might cause Alexa to open the blinds, read the news, and turn on the lights.

Alexa also now allows users to group clusters of smart home devices and associate them with specific rooms. So you no longer have to say “turn on the ceiling fan in the den.” If you are talking to an Echo located in the den, you just say “turn on the ceiling fan.”

Users can now ask for the state of specific devices like door locks (“locked or unlocked?”), then change the state if needed. (See here for more of the new products Amazon announced today.)

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