Make phones calls from your Amazon Echo devices.
As we dive further and further into the future, I become increasingly intrigued by all the ‘smart’ devices that are coming out to make our lives easier. Some skeptics might say that these devices that we can control with our voices are making our lives more sedentary, but I find that it just simplifies things for our household, which includes my 84-year-old grandmother. She is still incredibly independent, but there are some things that just take her a little longer to do than they used to. She gets around pretty well but did break her hip last fall so safe mobility is a concern and we do our best to make sure she stays strong and can get around with limited obstacles in the house. That said, we can’t watch her 24/7 and it’s those times that worry me. She doesn’t have a mobile phone and rarely remembers to take the portable house phone with her when she’s at home alone. So, what can we do? We recently added an Amazon Echo Connect to our home and it’s made a world of difference.
The Amazon Echo Connect is an Echo device that connects directly to your home phone line. The device will then connect to your WiFi network and transmit to other Amazon Alexa enabled devices in your home. You can then call out to your Echo Dots (we have two) and say, “Call Nick,” and the Echo will place the call. Echo Connect uses your existing home phone service (landline or VoIP) to make and receive calls. You can use it to call 911 in an emergency. The Alexa app will actually sync with your mobile contacts that are stored on your mobile phone and place calls from your stored contacts. Echo Connect will work with all of your registered Echo Devices and you only need one Echo Connect device per home phone line.
UNBOXING AND SETUP
The Amazon Echo Connect arrives in a classic Amazon black box. The iconic Amazon smile logo is on the front and “Amazon” is emblazoned across the top of the box. Inside, you will find the Echo Connect device, which is a box about the size of an Apple TV, a quick setup guide, Micro USB cable and power outlet adapter, phone cable, and a phone line splitter. I like how simplified this device is. You simply plug it into your phone line and power and then the rest of the setup is done through the Alexa app on your smartphone.
If you have a standard phone line, then you simply plug the splitter into the wall outlet where the phone signal comes into the house. You would then plug the phone cable for the Connect into the device and the phone cable for the phone handset into the phone. For our house, we actually have a slightly different set of steps because we utilize Ooma, a VoIP system. Our Ooma device looks a little like an answering machine. It pulls in a phone signal from our internet service and gives us the ability to make a call from a traditional landline handset. This was a great option for our house because the monthly cost is very minimal and for my grandmother, she can still use a ‘phone’ like she is used to. Because we have the Ooma device integrated into our system, we have to plug the Connect into the back of it. Other users who have VoIP systems would probably have the same type of experience. Instead of plugging the splitter into the wall for a traditional landline, you just plug it into the output port of the VoIP device.
Once everything is connected, you turn to your smartphone to finish up the setup. You open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Set up a new device. Echo Connect will likely appear at the bottom of the list. Once you select that device, you will go through a series of screens that identify how you want to use the device (Alexa Calling or Echo Connect) and connect the device to your WiFi (Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks. Does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks). After the Connect is pulling in a WiFi signal, you can close the app and just start using the system as it was intended.
Like most smart home devices, I found the setup to be fairly typical and it took less than 10 minutes from start to finish. When I started testing the actual calling option through our Echo Dot, I thought that the connection time was a little slow. But when you think about what the Echo Dot has to do process-wise, it makes sense.
- You send out the command – Alexa, call mom.
- The Echo Dot then sends a signal to the Echo Connect.
- The Echo Connect, in turn, grabs a phone signal from your landline or VoIP system
- Once a signal is established, the Echo Connect then pushes that out to the Echo Dot so you can complete your call.
Despite the speed at which the call was placed, the signal was very clear and it was like talking on a standard speakerphone. It was easy and painless. I haven’t noticed any issues with the Echo Connect communicating with the Ooma. They seem to work together very well.
For many tech-savvy people, this might seem like a wasted device. I feel like most people who have a smartphone are familiar with using a digital assistant and therefore can call out to their phone and say, “Siri, call mom,” to be connected with loved ones quickly and easily. But what if you aren’t one of those Gen-Xers that grew up with phone-in-hand and email as a suitable form of communication? My grandmother thankfully does embrace technology even though she doesn’t always understand all of it. She has a Google Home in her room currently so that she can ask it questions about the weather and have it read the daily news stories to her. She loves it and because she loves using it, I felt fairly comfortable that adding the Connect to our house would be a great safety option for her. Now, she can wander through the house and if she falls or otherwise needs help, she can call out, “Alexa, call Nick,” and be instantly connected to me. This gives me a lot of faith that my grandmother will be safe even when we aren’t right by her side.
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