The week in smart home: Alexa ups its secretary skills and more

A look back at all the goings on in the smart home world

The week in smart home: Alexa ups its skills
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I'm not going to lie - it's been a slow week for smart home news. Although you might not agree with that statement if you're the lady whose private conversation with her husband became headline news this week, after her Echo speaker sent it to one of her workmates. Uh-oh.

For more on that, and the other smart home headlines of the week, head on over to our dedicated news portal.

And, for anything else simply read on...

The week in smart home: Alexa ups its secretary skills and more

Alexa gets a PA boost

Alexa is getting smarter all the time, and this week Amazon's digital assistant's biggest new feature was improved calendar management.

The new abilities allow you to move your appointments around and schedule meetings based on other people’s availability - providing they are using Alexa too, of course. You just need to hop into the Settings section of your Alexa app and choose 'Calendar'. You'll get the option to link Google, Apple and Microsoft Outlook or Exchange calendars.

When attempting to arrange meetings after that, Alexa will suggest times that work for all meeting attendees. Simply say, “Alexa schedule a meeting with [name]” and Amazon’s digital assistant will search through your schedule for a good time, and offer up two time slots that would work.

Check out our Alexa tips and tricks guide for more handy features you might not know about.

The week in smart home: Alexa ups its secretary skills and more

Alexa's also more lively on your phone

Alexa is also making itself more prominent on iPhones and Android handsets, through the Amazon Music app. Alexa has been present on the app since September last year but, up until now, you needed to push a button to access the digital assistant.

No longer though, as you can now simply bark, "Alexa", when the app is open to get it to take notice.

You can request Alexa to play a specific song, artist or playlist and you can even get Alexa to play a song by saying the lyrics.

The week in smart home: Alexa ups its secretary skills and more

Comcast gets meshy

The delayed Xfinity xFi Pods from Comcast are now with us - offering Xfinity users the option to eliminate dead Wi-Fi spots in their smart homes.

These mesh nodes, which plug straight into your mains sockets, pair up with the xFi Wireless Gateway or the xFi Advanced Gateway to expand your home network.

Comcast recommends a 3-Pod pack to help with Wi-Fi connectivity issues in homes with 3-4 bedrooms and multiple stories - that will set you back $119.

If you're not sure if you need this - check out our guide to home Wi-Fi mesh systems for more info.

The week in smart home: Alexa ups its secretary skills and more

Dish beefs up OTA TV offering

Dish's new AirTV went live this week - a home server that connects to your antenna and broadcasts over the air (OTA) TV to your digital displays, as well as letting you watch live TV on your phone or tablet when you're not at home using the Sling TV app.

Engadget reports that, at a demo in New York this week, tuning to new OTA channels took around two to three seconds.

It costs $119.99 and you can order one now.

Top smart home deals

Every week we scour the web for the best smart home deals – check out our pick of this week's biggest bargains below.

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