Alexa is getting some much-needed smart home upgrades

Amidst a slew of new hardware announcements today, Amazon is also announcing a host of new capabilities for Alexa, including a handful of new smart home features. The company hasn’t announced exact release dates for the updates, but its press release says it hopes to roll them out “over the coming months.”

It might sound like a small change, but one of the more significant upgrades is the ability to quickly and easily schedule smart home device actions for moments in the future. Although it’s previously been possible to schedule actions via the Alexa app, now the process is a lot simpler, thanks to voice commands like “Alexa, turn off the lights in 10 minutes,” or “Alexa, turn on the fan at 6pm.”

A similarly small yet potentially helpful feature is support for wireless remote switches. These can be programmed to activate Routines, meaning it’s possible to have Alexa turn off all your lights or read a summary of the news with the push of a button. There are also new routine actions, which include the ability to toggle lights on and off or adjust their brightness by 25 percent. And speaking of Routines, Amazon says that soon Alexa will be able to personalize them to different people in your home via their Alexa Profiles by, for example, reading out different calendar entries depending on who says good morning to Alexa.

Although Alexa has previously supported smart home cameras, allowing you to view video feeds through Echo Show smart displays, now Alexa is making it possible to view multiple feeds at once. Most displays will be able to view up to four feeds at a time (apart from the Echo Show 5, which will be able to view just two). Amazon’s smart displays are also getting a new “Video Sticky Notes” feature, which effectively allows you to record and then pin short videos that’ll be viewable by other members of your household. Think of it like a high-tech version of a note pinned to the fridge.

Alexa’s hunches feature, which can proactively control smart home devices without you having to specifically ask, will soon be able to notify you if it detects that there’s no one home and your front door’s smart lock is unlocked. The door can then be locked with a voice command. There’s also a new Alexa feature that’ll proactively warn you if an upcoming outdoor event looks like it could be interrupted by rain up to 10 days in advance. Finally, Amazon’s Alexa Together service is being updated to provide more granular notifications for remote caregivers. Alerts about motion detected from smart sensors can now be room-specific, while there’ll also be notifications about lights turned on at unusual hours.

Combined, these amount to a sizable number of quality-of-life improvements for anyone that relies on Alexa to manage and control their smart home ecosystem.