What does it mean when a smart home device Works with Alexa?

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There are now thousands upon thousands of “smart home” products that you can now control by saying “Alexa” (Amazon’s cloud-based voice service.). If you’re shopping for a smart home device to work with your Alexa device, you might be confused by some of the labels and terms you might see.

“Just Ask Alexa”
“Alexa Built-in”
“Alexa enabled”
“Compatible with Alexa”
“Works with Alexa”

Believe it or not, there are HUGE differences among these labels. Let us break it down for you.

Just ask Alexa: Devices that directly connect to the voice-controlled service but are not certified by Amazon as Alexa Built-in.

Alexa Built-in: Non-Amazon devices that directly connects to Alexa. The device must pass rigorous security and testing requirements to be certified as Alexa Built-in, which used to be called Alexa Enabled. By June 30, 2019, Alexa Enabled badges will be phased out in favor of Alexa Built-in. Only devices that have been certified as Alexa Built-in are eligible to use the Alexa Built-in badge. Device manufacturers like Sonos, Anker, and Bose offer products with Alexa Built-in.

Compatible with Alexa: The device works with an Alexa skill (Alexa apps are called “skills” that is using a “Smart Home” API. The skill has been vetted to ensure the code works correctly, and that there’s no big security holes. There’s actually no certification process for saying your device is “Compatible with Alexa”.
Works With Alexa
Works with Alexa (WWA): The device not only works with Alexa, but both the device AND the skill it connects to have gone through rigorous testing by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) to ensure that the device is going to work and respond EXACTLY as it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to, based on Amazon’s standards. Speaking from experience, the testing standards are VERY STRINGENT (with good reason!)

In short, when you see the Works with Alexa badge on a product, Amazon is guaranteeing that it’s going to work with the Alexa platform a very specific way, so you get consistent results. If you see the word “Compatible” without the Works with Alexa badge on a product, you can’t be sure how it’s going to work.

When working right, Alexa lets you use your voice to control a smart device by speaking commands to Alexa. Some examples of functionality that are guaranteed by the WWA badge are:

  1. Telling a certified light bulb to brighten or dim means the bulb will brighten or dim by 25% - noncertified devices could brighten or dim by any percentage.
  2. Telling a certified light bulb so change to a particular color means that the light bulb is going to change to that specific color. A noncertified device could possibly turn green when you ask it to turn blue!
  3. Telling a certified smart plug to turn on/off means it’s going to turn on or off within a few seconds. An uncertified device means it may function perfectly well, or not.
  4. If you attempt to tell a certified device to turn on, off, or anything else when it’s offline for some reason, it means Alexa is going to tell you that it can’t due to the device being offline. An uncertified device may very well just tell Alexa that it’s still online and functioning fine when it isn’t.

Now, not having certification doesn’t necessarily mean that the device isn’t going to behave properly, but having the certification means that the device WILL behave properly with the Alexa interface.

Good news! Both the Wi-Fi Indoor Plug and the Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb from Fox&Summit Works with Alexa.