This Alexa update makes Echo your smart bulb's best friend

Amazon has dramatically improved how Alexa, its smart assistant found, works with connected bulbs, allowing users to control color and white light temperature by voice. The tunable lighting control update, announced today, allows developers to integrate color and temperature control with simple voice commands, and is compatible with some of the most popular connected bulbs on the market. It's a feature which has been much-requested by smart home fans.

Alexa and the Amazon Echo smart speaker have been able to control bulbs like Philips' Hue for a couple of years now: Hue support, for instance, was added all the way back in April 2015. However, the integration has been fairly basic. With Hue, for instance, it was possible to ask for a certain zone to be illuminated – such as "Alexa, turn on the Hue lights in the kitchen" – or brightness to be set, but more complex control required digging out the actual app for iOS or Android phones and tablets.

Now, developers will be able to give far more granular control with simple spoken commands. The new "SetColorRequest" directive allows users to ask for a specific color – "Alexa, change the kitchen lights to red," for instance – and have them change without requiring the app. Developers will be able to specify not only RGB hue but also brightness and saturation.

It's not the only addition, mind. A new "SetColorTemperatureRequest" directive also added to the Alexa skill set permits control over light temperature, increasingly a feature billed by smart bulb manufacturers as having a significant impact on how we feel in our homes. With it, users will be able to ask for specific light temperatures, such as "Alexa, set the bedside lamp to reading" and have an eye-friendly 2,700 Kelvin setting automatically configured.

Amazon will also preset a "daylight" temperature of 5,500 Kelvin degrees, though developers will be able to program their own custom temperatures too. For those wanting even more granular control, there's support for asking for the light temperature to be raised or lowered incrementally. Exactly what that increment might be will depend on the developer's own settings.

NOW READ: Amazon Echo Dot Review

Although Amazon's Alexa team is billing this as useful for the home, it's not hard to imagine easily-tunable lights being a boon in other environments. Photographers, for instance, might want to be able to control their lighting environment by spoken command, allowing them to tweak scenes without having to put down their cameras and pause shooting. Offices, too, have increasingly been experimenting with light temperatures to improve worker health and efficiency; being able to adjust conference rooms by voice could encourage greater use of those settings.

Initially, Alexa's new color and light temperature integrations will work with a handful of connected bulbs from some of the more popular manufacturers. Right now, that means Hue, LIFX, and TP-Link, along with lights controlled by a SmartThings Hub. The new skill is available in the US now, and will be rolling out in the UK and Germany soon.

MORE Amazon