How Does Amazon Alexa Work?

Brinks Home™ home automation.


December 1, 2020

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In the simplest of terms, Alexa is Amazon’s virtual voice assistant built into devices such as the Amazon Echo. The Echo itself is a speaker with a microphone.

Alexa is also the engine that drives all of the Echo and Alexa devices. If you’re an Apple person, Alexa is to Amazon what Siri is to Apple. Going a little deeper, Alexa is the brain behind Echo and array of Alexa-enabled devices offered by Amazon.

How to use Alexa

Using Alexa is incredibly simple. Just say the “wake” word, which is “Alexa” by default, ask your question or state your command, and Alexa will respond instantly.

Alexa’s “brain” exists in the cloud with constant updates automatically delivered to your device to make it more intelligent the longer and the more you use it.

A helpful assistant, Alexa can provide answers to most questions you ask. For instance, you can ask Alexa, “What is the weather today in Detroit?” and Amazon’s virtual assistant will reply with the current conditions and what to expect throughout the day.

More than a talking search engine

Amazon’s virtual voice assistant is not a one-trick pony. Using Alexa is as simple as asking a question. Just ask to play music, hear the news, control your smart home, enjoy a joke, and more — and Alexa will respond instantly.

Regardless of whether you’re at home or out on the road, Alexa will make your life easier by letting you voice-control your world. Here’s a quick rundown of common ways that Alexa simplifies your day-to-day activities.

Music and entertainment

Alexa provides hands-free voice control for music and entertainment. You can listen to music from services like Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Spotify Premium. If you’re a Prime member, you already have access to over two million songs on Alexa with Prime Music — and you can ask for music in several ways, some of which include by genre, mood, or era. The multi-room music feature allows you to play music across multiple Echo devices at the same time.

Calling and messaging

Alexa offers a new way to be together with family and friends. You can use your supported Echo device or the Alexa App on your supported mobile phone or tablet to call or message almost anyone — for free.

If your hands are occupied making dinner, just ask Alexa to place a call to your Mom, or send a quick voice message to a friend. You can also enable Drop In to instantly connect with other Echo devices in your home or your closest family and friends.

News and information

Alexa can also help you stay up to date with the news. Flash Briefing allows you to tailor a personalized lineup of updates from news sources like NPR, CNN, Fox News, and CNET. If you have set up a voice profile through your account, Alexa will recognize your voice and can catch you up on the latest news without repeating old information.

Questions and answers

Alexa can get you answers quickly. She can tap into Yelp to provide you with information on local restaurants, shops, and other businesses. The voice assistant also makes a great calculator, dictionary, and gets fast facts on all types of topics.

Help around the house

Alexa makes your home life easier, allowing you to spend more time on the things that matter to you. Whether you’re cooking in the kitchen, sleeping in the bedroom, or changing the oil in the garage, Alexa can keep an eye on the clock for you.

Smart Home

You can even use Alexa to control smart home devices such as cameras, door locks, entertainment systems, lighting, and thermostats.

Forget the age-old “clap-on” devices -- simply instruct Alexa to switch on the lamp without getting out of bed, turn on the fan or space heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie — all without lifting a finger.

With Echo Show or Echo Spot, you can also see live video feeds from compatible smart cameras without opening an app on your phone.

Alexa Skills

Personalize your Alexa device experience. Skills are like apps for Alexa. Whether you want to play games, discover new workouts, request an Uber ride, or order pizza delivery, Alexa has more than 40,000 skills across 20 categories to help make your life easier and more fun. No need to download or install.

Alexa Voice Service

When you ask Alexa a question, what you’re doing is communicating with a cloud-based service. Amazon designed the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to mimic real conversations, but you’re using intuitive voice commands to get this service to perform specific tasks.

The term “Alexa” is both the name of the AI engine inside voice assistants and the “wake” word that cues the service to start listening to your voice. For most devices, you just have to say it to get a response. AVS includes a full range of features, including smart home control, streaming music content, news, timers, and more, and can be added to any connected device with a microphone and speaker.

Alexa and Brinks Home

From smart lights to automated climate control, combining your home security system with other aspects of home automation has never been easier.

You can find out more about how Brinks Home can help you with your home automation needs and take the first step toward increasing your home’s smart home capabilities by contacting us today.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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