How Amazon's Alexa Works

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Lluís Enric Mayans
@lluisenricmayans
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What is Alexa and how it works

Let's start from the basics, namely from what is Alexa and how it works. As I mentioned earlier, Alexa is an artificial intelligence that can be used as a personal assistant, with which it is possible to communicate via voice commands, to be given via one of the supported devices: mainly the smart speaker Amazon Echo, but also smartphones, tablets or computers (for which the Alexa app is available).


As easily understood, the most effective way to take advantage of Alexa is to buy a speaker of the family Amazon Echo, whose installation is really simple: just connect it to the mains (both the power cable and the power supply are supplied), download theAlexa app on your smartphone or tablet and perform a quick initial setup. Once the procedure is completed, the enormous panorama of the possibilities offered by Alexa opens up.


Among the most interesting things that can be done with Amazon's voice assistant there is certainly the possibility of controlling the home automation devices compatible, for example Smart bulbs that allow, through voice commands given to Alexa, to turn on, turn off, dim or change the color and intensity of the lights in the house without having to get up.

Of course, the lights are just one example of the smart devices that can be controlled with Alexa. There are many other devices of this type on the market, just check their compatibility with Alexa on the sales package or in the description sheet. Here are some examples.

  • Le prese Wi-Fi and Smart slippers, to turn appliances on and off with just the use of your voice, useful in the case of non-smart appliances.
  • - Wi-Fi switches he Smart Switch which also allow you to control the sockets and consequently various devices and appliances.
  • I smart thermostats that allow you to remotely adjust the temperature of the house, fighting energy waste.
  • I conditioners and air conditioners directly compatible or, in case of non-compatibility, there is the possibility to purchase an additional device to make your air conditioner Smart and connect it to Alexa.
  • I safety devices, such as Wi-Fi cameras, smart baby monitors, smart locks to always have your home under control.
  • I robot vacuum cleaner, who clean the house independently without the need for human intervention.
  • Le Smart TV, especially the newer models, which have Alexa built into the system. Alternatively, however, it is possible to make your smart TV compatible through the use of external devices (which I will talk about later on).

In short, as you can see, Alexa is compatible with a large number of devices, including universal remote controls, weather stations e air quality control stations.



Before moving on to the use of more complex devices, it is better to familiarize yourself with the main functions of Alexa.

Among the most important are those relating to managing your day: With Alexa, you can set your own Wake-up calls, know the conditions and weather forecasts or the traffic of your city and much more.

For example, just give Alexa a command, such as: "Alexa, set the alarm for 7". Plus, you can resolve any doubts by simply asking them a question. Artificial intelligence, drawing on information on the Internet, will provide an answer. There are no limits to what you can ask for. Do you want some examples? “Alexa, how do you cook lasagna?”, “Alexa, why is the sea salty?”.

You will also benefit from several multimedia content, as the music, thanks to the integrations with different services (which I will talk about more later on). Again, you just need to give a voice command such as "Alexa, let me listen to rock music" or "Alexa, let me listen to Show must go on by Queen". You can also ask her to listen podcast or to read you a book present in your Audible library.

Also, as a color note, you can ask Alexa to tell you about it jokes, stories, get yourself riddles, play, let you see video from Prime Video (only on Echo devices with integrated screens or on TVs) and create your own summary of the day with news from the sources you prefer.


It does not end here. A peculiarity of Alexa, as well as one of its most interesting aspects, is the personalization. You can, in fact, equip it with skill, that is, additional features developed by third parties that allow Amazon's artificial intelligence to perform many more actions and connect with numerous services.


Most of the skills, comparable to applications to be activated on the Alexa app or in the Amazon store, are free. You can activate, for example, the skill of Just Eat to order take away food, of RTL 102.5 to listen to the radio or to MYmovies to know the programming of the cinemas in your city. The list is really long: you just have to choose the ones you want to use.

How to use Alexa

Now that you have a general smattering of how Amazon's Alexa works, you can proceed with the reading of the most practical part of this article and discover, effectively, how to use Alexa. There are still many things to discover both about the functioning of the virtual assistant and about the different models of Echo devices available. Enjoy the reading!

How the Alexa app works

As mentioned above, once you have purchased a smart speaker from the Echo family, you need to configure it using the appropriate app, available for Android, iOS / iPadOS e Fire OS. The application, however, is not only for this and below I will show you all its most important features.


I begin by telling you that Amazon Alexa is compatible with Android devices running from 6.0 onwards and with iPhone / iPad from iOS / iPadOS 11.0 onwards, except for Auto Echo available on Android 6.0 onwards and only on iOS / iPaOS 12.0 onwards.

To download the app, go to the store of your device (eg. Play Store su Android o App Store su iPhone / iPad), near "Alexa" in the latter and first tap onicona dell'app in the search results and then on Installa / Ottieni. If you are using an iPhone or iPad, you may be prompted for authorization via Touch ID, Face ID, or Apple ID password. Wait for the installation to complete and then tap on the app icon to start it.


At this point, log in by entering your details Amazon account or, if you don't have one, register by creating a new account. Once this is done, press the button Continue, to accept the terms and conditions of the Alexa app. Now, with your app active, you can do many things.

By tapping the ☰ button, in fact, you can fully manage all Alexa features directly from your smartphone. Here are some examples.

  • Creation list which can be updated at any time either via voice command to Alexa or manually from the app.
  • Add reminders and alarms, so as not to forget anything to do. Your Echo will alert you with a voice reminder, your phone via a notification.
  • Activate the function Drop in to make calls and send Message to friends who also own an Amazon Echo.
  • Manually set one routine to be done by Alexa at set times. For example, if you want Alexa to set an alarm for 07.00, read you the main news of the night and then play some music from your favorite radio station, all you have to do is set it as a routine.
  • Talk to Alexa directly from the app and receive an answer through it. To do this, click on the icon comic bottom center and then up Continue. Then allow Amazon Alexa to access yours position and microphone And that's it!

You will also be able to access the section Things to try, where various Alexa functions are recommended divided into categories, or change the settings to customize the commands to be given to the artificial intelligence.

In addition to this, again through the app, you can activate the skill for the smart house through a very simple procedure: tap on the icon devices in the menu below and choose the item Skill for the smart home.

At this point, tap the button Activate smart home skills and select the one you want to activate from the list (or alternatively search for it using the search bar). Once chosen, tap the button Enable to use, connect your account and confirm. Easy isn't it?

Although not yet officially available on the in your languagen store (but usable in in your languagen), the application of Alexa for Windows 10: I told you about it in detail in my tutorial on how to connect Alexa to PC.

How Alexa Echo works

Now let's move on to the devices that allow you to make the most of Alexa's potential: the Smart speakers of the family Echo, available for purchase on Amazon. The devices in question are many and all allow access to most of Alexa's functions, but obviously they are not identical to each other.

The main differences between the models are the following: the format, size and shape of the device, the audio power, the presence or absence of a display, the possible connection with the home automation devices and, finally, the connection with the external speakers.

Among the models privacy on display we have first of all Amazon Echo Dot, the smallest device of the family, available in different colors, equipped with keys to adjust the volume and deactivate the microphone and a light ring to signal the status of the device.

Amazon Echo it is instead the more balanced model, consisting of a cylindrical speaker suitable for those who want to have a good music player that can also be connected to external speakers, without exaggerating the price.

Amazon Echo Plus is the improved and more powerful version of Amazon Echo that has an output for external speakers, an audio input and an integrated ZigBee hub that allows you to directly control Smart devices based on this standard, without using external hubs. It also detects the ambient temperature via a sensor.

Amazon Echo Studio primarily intended for those who want high quality audio listening, equipped with five speakers.

Vedi offers your Amazon

Finally, among the devices without a display, there is Amazon Echo Flex: an inexpensive device that offers the ability to charge your devices via a USB port. However, it is not designed for listening to music.

Vedi offers your Amazon

Moving on to the models of Echo with integrated display, we have Amazon Echo Spot, nicknamed “the smart alarm clock” with a color touch-screen display and a front camera. Allows you to watch videos, make video calls and control surveillance cameras.

Amazon Echo Show equipped with 10.1 ″ HD touch-screen display, a 5MP front camera and hub ZigBee thanks to which it is possible to control the home automation devices that have the same system without using external hubs.

Amazon Echo Show 5, on the other hand, it is the smaller version of the previous one with a 5.5 "display, camera and integrated camera cover.

Vedi offers your Amazon

Amazon Echo Show 8 is the middle ground between the two mentioned above. It has an 8 ″ HD display, stereo speakers and integrated ZigBee hub system.

See offer on Amazon See offer on Amazon

You stai chiedendo how Alexa video works and what changes if you decide to buy a device with a display? In addition to being able, of course, to watch videos, you can also change Alexa's settings via the touch screen. An extra convenience in case you don't want to use the app or voice commands.

In addition to these models that I have just listed there is another that deserves to be mentioned. It is about Amazon Echo Auto, to carry all the Alexa features inside your car. It connects via the cigarette lighter and, taking advantage of the phone's Internet connection, allows you to use Alexa like at home: I'll talk about it more later in this tutorial.

Vedi offers your Amazon

Through the app you can configure both the Amazon Echos you own and the devices from third parties compatible with the Amazon assistant.

Just access the app on your smartphone, tap on the icon devices and then on the button capacitor positive (+) lead. After that you will only have to choose the type of device from the list and wait for the pairing mode to find your Echo.

Do you have to perform the first configuration of an Amazon Echo and you don't know how to do it? Then I suggest you read my guide on configuring Alexa, where you will find all the information you need to start using these devices.

How Alexa works for music

One of the main reasons Amazon Echo devices are bought is to listen to music with a simple voice command addressed to Alexa.

Amazon's personal assistant, in fact, is able to access different music streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Music (only if suitable) e Amazon Music Unlimited (for subscribers).

If you do not want to use an Amazon service, you can alternatively choose another compatible one. To do this, just use the Alexa app for smartphones and tablets, tap on the icon Entertainment and, in section New services, press on the item Manage your services.

From here you can choose, by voice Connect a new service, what you want to use between Spotify, Apple Music, TIMMUSIC o Deezer.

Once you have selected the service, you have to press the button Enable to use and connect your account via credentials. Later, if you want to check that the skill is active, tap the ☰ button, select the item Skills and games and from the menu that opens, tap on the item Your Skills. The skills you have activated will appear on the new screen.

Do you want some more information? Then I recommend you to read my tutorials on how to connect Amazon Music to Alexa and how to connect Spotify to Alexa. Also, I point out that with Alexa you can listen to any online radio for free, through the service TuneIn: just say commands like: “Alexa, play me [radio station name]”.

How Alexa works with TV

Alexa is integrated in some of the latest generation Smart TVs of the brands Samsung, LG, Hisense e Philips. You don't have a Smart TV and would like to connect Alexa to your TV anyway? No problem, there are several solutions that allow you to do it even without buying a new TV.

The first solution I want to tell you about is Fire TV Stick, an HDMI dongle, that is an Amazon branded media player similar to a key, which allows you to turn a normal TV into a Smart TV and access various multimedia contents. It connects to the TV via the HDMI port and can also be connected to Alexa. There are two models available: one Full HD and one 4K with integrated Alexa remote.

See offer on Amazon See offer on Amazon

Alternatively or in addition, you can also connect the Fire Tv Stick to an Amazon Echo and control it via the latter: the only thing to do is to connect your Amazon Echo to the Fire TV Stick via the Amazon Alexa app. To learn more, read my tutorial on how to connect Fire TV Stick to Alexa.

Another solution I want to bring to your attention is BroadLink RM Mini3 / 4: an infrared Smart receiver that allows you to connect any Smart TV (or device that works with infrared) to Alexa. Does it seem like something complicated and extremely difficult to use? You are wrong! Basically it is a universal remote control that uses its own app for smartphones and that can be connected as a skill to the Alexa app.

Vedi offers your Amazon

Do you want to try the connection procedure? Then I suggest you read this guide where you will find all the information you need to achieve your goal.

How Alexa for Cars works

Among the Amazon Echo models I mentioned earlier, there is one designed to transport Alexa from the home to your car: Amazon Echo Auto.

The assistant's functionality remains the same: you can ask it to play music, listen to an audiobook, make a call or start a game (previously enabled via skill). If you connect it via the Drop In function to another Echo device in your home, you can also notify your family of your arrival. The two devices, in fact, can communicate with each other with calls and messages.

Are you wondering how exactly it works? Now I'll explain it to you. Amazon Echo Auto connects to the Amazon Alexa app installed on your smartphone using the Internet connection of your phone plan and, through the car stereo, plays what you ask. It can be connected to the system in two ways: via Bluetooth oppure with l 'AUX input.

To install it on the car, all you have to do is connect it to theLighter and clip it to the air vent via the supplied holder (together with the car charger, the Micro-USB cable and the 3,5 mm AUX cable).

At this point, configure it with the Amazon Alexa app, select the way to connect it to the car stereo and turn up the volume of the phone and the stereo. Once all this is done, Alexa will be functional and you can start using it.

However, I must point out that it is not compatible with all car models and with some air vents. On this page you can find the list of incompatible models.

How Amazon's Alexa Works


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