Smart Home Development Options

Alexa offers a variety of choices to connect your smart home device. Review the development options to find the one that best suits your device type, development preference, and the experience that you want to create.

For an overview of smart home, see What is an Alexa-Enabled Smart Home.

Explore the development options

The following table shows the Alexa smart home development options for connected and built-in devices. A more detailed description for each option follows the table.

Development option Description Requirements Example device types

Alexa Connect Kit

To add Alexa control to your product, integrate the precertified Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) hardware module into your product, or use the ACK SDK on your connectivity platform. Amazon provides and manages the cloud infrastructure.

Any device with a microcontroller and power.

Lighting, small and large appliances, fans, blinds, air conditioners, speakers.

Smart home skills

A smart home skill connects your device to Alexa through your cloud infrastructure. The skill handles device discovery, and delivers directives from Alexa to control your device.

Any smart device connected to your cloud infrastructure and a customer account for your device.

Multiple device types, such as climate control, entertainment, home security, household appliances, kitchen appliances, lighting and power, networking, sensors, window treatments.

Local connection protocols

You can connect your device directly to an Alexa-enabled device by using local wireless communication technologies, such as Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) mesh, Matter, or Zigbee. Also, you can combine local connectivity protocols with smart home skills, ACK, and Alexa Built-in.

Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Matter certified devices

BLE-mesh enabled devices, such as lights, sensors, speakers.
Zigbee-enabled devices, such as lights, plugs, locks. Matter-enabled devices

Smart home for Alexa Built-in

For devices with Alexa built into the device, such as an Alexa Built-in TV that can control which HDMI input to use. The Alexa Built-in option doesn't require a skill or cloud infrastructure. For more details, see Alexa Built-in Devices.

Any device with a microphone and speaker, and with simple control features, such as toggles, modes, and ranges.

Smart vehicles, speakers, TVs, wearable audio devices.

ACK solution

With the ACK solution, for a fixed per unit cost, you can add Alexa control to your device. You integrate the precertified ACK hardware module into your product, or use the ACK SDK on your connectivity platform. With the ACK option, you focus on building and deploying your device. Amazon provides the cloud infrastructure and manages device connectivity, networking, security, and communication with Alexa services. There is no infrastructure development and no need for your own app or services to manage your devices. For details, see Alexa Connect Kit.

The following diagram shows the ACK topology. The device maker focuses on building the device. Amazon manages the infrastructure.

Diagram of smart home architecture using the Alexa connect kit hardware module.

Smart home skills

If you have your own smart home cloud infrastructure, you can build a smart home skill to connect your device to Alexa. When a customer enables your skill, Alexa starts device discovery. Here, your skill describes your device and the properties and interfaces that it supports and reports the device details to Alexa. Then, when a user speaks to Alexa to control your device, Alexa interprets the utterance and sends a message to your skill to communicate the request. Your skill reacts to the message by changing the state of the device, either directly over a local connection or through your cloud infrastructure. In addition, you connect the customer's account on your system with the customer's Amazon account so that your skill knows the customer and their devices. For details, see Smart Home Skills. You can also extend the pre-built voice interaction model with the Multi-capability Skills.

The following diagram shows the smart home skills infrastructure. The device maker develops and maintains the Alexa skill, cloud infrastructure, device-maker app, and the connection to the smart device.

Diagram of smart home architecture using the alexa skills kit.

Local connection options

You can connect your device to Alexa with standard local communication protocols, such as Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) mesh, Matter, and Zigbee. You can connect your product to Alexa by using the protocol support built into Alexa-enabled devices, such as Amazon Echo devices. Local connectivity between an Echo and your device allows Alexa voice interactions to work with low latency, even when the Internet or cloud infrastructure is down. Device capabilities for BLE-mesh and Zigbee-enabled devices' local protocols are limited to basic functionality, such as power on and off. With local connections, you can combine device control over local connections with smart home skill to add more device capabilities. For details, see Local Connection Options.

The following diagram shows the topology of connected devices that use local connections to Alexa.

Diagram of smart home architecture using local connections, such as Bluetooth low-energy mesh, Matter, or Zigbee.

Understand the pre-built voice interaction model

Smart home interfaces use a pre-built voice interaction model that gives you a set of predefined utterances that users say to control your device. For example, the user simply says, "Turn on the lights," or "Lower the blinds." Alexa recognizes the utterance and the name of a particular device, or group of devices, that the user configured in the Alexa app. With the pre-built voice interaction model, you don't have to tell Alexa all the ways that a user can request a smart home command.

The following example shows an interaction for turning on a light that uses the smart home pre-built voice interaction model.

User: Alexa, turn on the porch light.

Alexa: OK.

Based on the pre-built voice interaction model for smart home, Alexa recognizes the following:

  • The phrase turn on as part of the smart home pre-built voice interaction model.
  • The phrase porch light identifies a particular device that the user configured and named in the Alexa app.

Alexa sends a TurnOn request, called the device directive, to the device endpoint that controls the device identified as porch light. For example, consider a device that connects to Alexa with a smart home skill. On receipt of the directive, the skill turns on the specified lights by communicating with the device through the cloud. Based on the skill response, Alexa gives the user an indication, such as an audio sound or speech, that the request succeeded.

Choose the smart home interfaces

Alexa provides smart home capability interfaces that define the interactions between your device and Alexa. During discovery, you describe your device capabilities by using the Smart Home APIs. Because these APIs come with a pre-built voice interaction model, you don't have to tell Alexa all the ways that a user can control your device. For example, if your device is a lamp, and you want the user to be able to turn the lamp on and off, you implement the Alexa.PowerController API. Then, when the user asks Alexa to turn off the lamp, Alexa sends the TurnOff directive to your skill.

Some Alexa interfaces support specific device types, but other interfaces support many kinds of devices. For example, implement the Alexa.ThermostatController interface only for thermostats, but implement interfaces like Alexa.PowerLevelController for many kinds of devices.

Each development option supports a subset of smart home interfaces. Make sure that you choose an option that supports the capabilities of your device. For the list of capabilities for each development option, see Index of Device Capabilities.

Next steps

After you choose the development option that best suits your needs, refer to the documentation under Connect Your Device to Alexa to build and test your product. After you complete your implementation, refer to the documentation under Certify Your Device for the certification process for your selected development option. Certification makes sure that your solution delivers a consistent and high-quality Alexa experience.

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Last updated: Jul 01, 2024