Alexa and Other Smart Product Terminology Explained

I’m sure you have seen at least one of these names on a product, in a store or somewhere on the internet. And now you might be wondering what is Alexa? Or what is Google Home?

I’ll shed some light on these technologies for you. I also had this question in mind not too long ago, so you are not alone.

Voice-activated assistants are becoming part of our homes so rapidly. Using them in conjunction with other smart devices really starts making our technology in our homes more convenient.

Alexa explained

Like Google Assistant, it’s categorized as a virtual assistant that gets used in Amazon’s Echo and other devices.

The software interprets your voice command and executes a function that is associated with predefined commands stored in its library of commands.

This then executes tasks from a specific routine programmed for that command.

amazon echo plus

You can command Alexa using your voice. An initial phrase called a ‘wake word’ allows you to get Alexa’s attention before you state your command. 

You can actually change your wake word to four different preset options. Namely, ‘Alexa’, ‘Echo’, ‘Amazon’ and ‘Computer’.

A companion app for Alexa is also available from the Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon Appstore. With this app, you can install skills into Alexa. 

You can also do other tasks that you would be using Alexa normally. A web interface is also available to set up your devices.

If you still wondering “what is Alexa?” and want to get more information, go and have a look on Wikipedia – Amazon Alexa.

What is Google Home?

google home

Likewise as with Alexa, Google Home has a technology that it operates from, called Google Assistant. 

Just to be clear, Google Home (read more about it in the link) is an actual device, which can be used in a very similar way as the Amazon Echo. 

Google Assistant is a virtual assistant and runs on Google Home, Google Max, and Mini, Android devices, a few other products.

It’s current wake words are ‘Ok Google’ and ‘Hey Google’. However, Google is working at bringing customized wake words to be able to change it to anything you want. Which I must admit, will be a welcomed feature.

What is Wink?

wink logo

Wink is a brand of products, hardware, and software, designed and built to connect with and control existing smart home products.

The idea is to link up to all your third-party devices and have one central app or hub to control all your devices with. A wall-mounted screen is also available, called Relay, which is a centralized display for all your devices.

From the mobile app, you are able to control your devices remotely.

What is Apple HomeKit?

apple homekit logo

HomeKit is a software framework created by Apple. 

It allows users to configure an app on almost all Apple devices to control compatible devices or appliances. Automated actions can be performed using Siri.

What is Nest?

nest logo

Nest is a home automation company that produces various smart home devices.

What is SmartThings?

smartthings logo

SmartThings is a Californian based company. They are creating an open platform for smart homes and IoT. 

So far they have created a hub to centralize control of your devices, a cloud platform, and various apps.

What is IFTTT?

ifttt logo

IFTT Stand for ‘If This Then That’. This is a free web-based service to create chains of conditional statements, called applets.

One such example could be like this:

You could create an applet. Consequently, this applet may have the purpose to set a mood using your smart lighting. 

The way to do it is to create a unique command phrase that gets detected from your Google Home, for instance. So if you say, ‘make it cozy’ for example, it will then adjust your lights to the parameters you program into the applet.

You can almost see it as a way to customize your smart home experience.

In addition, you can watch a video if you are interested in a more in-depth explanation:

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What is IoT?

internet of things logo

IoT is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other embedded electronics devices. These also use sensors, software, actuators and connectivity which can be used to exchange data.

For instance, an example of this would be:

Use a smart plug to give you usage readings to your mobile device, or hook your smartphone up to your car.

Meanwhile, if you would like to watch a video on YouTube explaining about IoT and how it works:

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What is Z-Wave?

z-wave logo

Z-Wave is a wireless communications protocol, most commonly used in home automation. It’s also developed to use less energy, so it can preserve the battery life of your devices.

Originally, it was developed in 2001 and has a range of around 100 meters. The international frequency is around 800-900 MHz.

What is Zigbee?

zigbee alliance logo

Zigbee is n IEEE 802.15.4 based wireless communications protocol. Similarly, like Z-Wave in a way, but it’s used in a broader range of industries. 

It’s a suite of high-level communications protocols allows it to be used in personal area networks, low power radios, medical devices home automation, to name a few. Therefore, Zigbee is highly efficient with power usage.

However, it’s fairly low range, about 10 to 20 meters. Frequency operation bands: 868, 915 and 2450 MHz.

Conclusion

New technologies are coming out all the time. I will try my best to keep the ones worth mentioning updated on this page.

However, I hope I’ve answered the question, what is Alexa, thoroughly enough.

Some of this information in this article was taken from Wikipedia: Amazon AlexaGoogle HomeWinkIoTITTTZ-WaveZigbee