Since this past December I have been testing Amazon's Alexa service via an Amazon Echo Dot ($49.99 at Amazon).
Over these last few months I have focused on using Alexa for news, weather, music streaming, calendar services, and other information retrieval scenarios. I have not yet ventured into making purchases through the Echo Dot and Alexa although it is a very straight forward process to get rolling.
There are also literally thousands of Skills for Alexa and you can access these skills through the Alexa app on your smartphone and via the web interface. However, it is much like the app stores and contains a full range of products of varying quality so you can spend a lot of time finding the solid offerings.
The one area I have not explored to any extent at this point is the smart home management aspect of Alexa. In order to do that you must look at devices that will allow you to interface with the Alexa service and this is typically accomplished through smart devices that can talk to your local home Wi-Fi network.
These range from smart thermostats, light bulbs, outlets, fans, and even locks. Amazon makes it easy to find devices that are compatible with their Alexa service through their Alexa Smart Home Portal. Popular brands like Samsung SmartThings, Phillips Hue, Wemo, and Insteon are available through this website listing.
I decided to begin my smart home dabbling by testing the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini which is available from from Amazon for $34.99 (normally $49.99).
This device plugs into a standard electrical outlet and then accesses your home Wi-Fi to get connected within your local network and if you choose, to the Internet so it can be controlled remotely when you are away from home. By default this plug is only connected to your local network and you do need a TP-Link Cloud account to enable remote access through the KASA app or in this instance, Amazon's Alexa.
Tomorrow I will share the entire process for setting up the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini and integrating it to Alexa but for today here is the un-boxing of the plug along with a shot of how well it fits in a normal electrical socket and leaves room for other items to be plugged in the same socket.