Eight very cool ways Amazon Echo can make your life easier

Lynsey Barber
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Amazon Echo in room
Amazon Echo speakers use a voice assistant called Alexa (Source: Amazon)

It's a speaker, it's a personal assistant, it's activated by just your voice and it's promising to make your life easier - meet the Amazon Echo.

Many people are already raving about the device across the pond where it's been available for some time while many others not in the US have been hacking the device to get it working, such is the hype around it.

But now, the UK can experience a real-life, sci-fi-like smart home where asking the weather gets a reply from a Siri-esque assistant, Alexa, and turning the heating up as autumn approaches is a case of just telling it. The future is here.

Read more: You can use Amazon Echo to check your stock portfolio

Here's our ultimate guide as it goes on sale in the UK to what can be done on the Amazon Echo as well as the companies integrating their services into the device in what's known as an Amazon skill - the equivalent of an app when there's no screen involved.

1. Control your heating

Let's start with something increasingly syonymous with the rise of the smart home - controlling your heating.

We can already use an app to do just that, thanks to products such as British Gas' Hive and Google's Nest. Now we can change the temperature of our homes via voice controls, with Hive, Honeywell and Netamo all creating skills for Echo. Ask Alexa to turn the heating up or down and it will.

2. Control your lights

Another increasingly familiar sight, that Hive integration also works for lamps that use smart plugs, while Phillips smart light bulbs let you control the main lighting in your home in any room you choose.

3. Ask for dinner

When you get home from work and can't really be bothered to think about something like preparing dinner, Echo has several answers.

If you still have the energy to cook and some ingredients in the fridge, simply ask Alexa for some recipes, thanks to the Jamie Oliver recipe skill.

If that's far too much hassle, just ask for a takeaway, with the Just Eat skill.

4. Take care of those pesky household chores

Sorting out dinner isn't the only household chore Echo can help out with. OK, it won't turn on your washing machine (yet, anyway) but any with the Laundrapp skill, you can arrange to pick up and return your dry cleaning with the service.

Another chore is keeping an eye on bills - in particular energy bills. The EDF skill can tell you your energy bill and you can even give Alexa a metre reading.

5. Start a journey

Not in the metaphorical sense. Travel plans can start in a variety of different ways with Alexa.

You can unlock your car if its a BMW or check the fuel status, although you won't be able to remotely start it.

If you're making your way by other methods of transport, you can simply ask when the next train is with the National Rail skill, while the Uber skill will order you a car via voice command.

If you're heading further afield, there's the Kayak and Skyscanner skills for booking flights

6. Play your music

The Echo is a speaker after all, so simply ask Alexa to play a tune via the Spotify, TuneIn (for radio shows and podcasts) or ​Radioplayer skills.

7. Get the news

News junkies rejoice. Avoid having to spend your life staring at a screen, you can get the top headlines from Sky Sports, the Guardian and the Telegraph without moving a finger or lifting an eyelid first thing in the morning.

8. Find your phone

You know you last had your phone in the kitchen, but where the hell has it gone? Track it down by asking Alexa, thanks to the TrackR find my phone skill, and it'll start ringing.