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Athom Blog

The official blog by Athom, creators of Homey

Homey & Alexa – differences, compatibility and collaboration

Posted on March 22, 2019 in Inspiration

“Homey is a Smart Home platform, designed to combine all your wireless and smart devices at home into a single place”. This is the explanation we often give to describe Homey in one sentence. On which a lot of people respond: “Like Alexa?”. That’s perfectly logical. Our answer? “Errrr, somewhat…”

Just like Homey, Alexa does ‘smart home stuff’. However, next to sharing some characteristics, there are also a lot of differences between the two. If anything, Homey and Alexa products are better at helping each other than replacing each other. Let us explain.

Note: for simplicity’s sake we will compare Homey, including the Homey platform and ecosystem to an Echo device with Alexa and its ecosystem. For other Alexa-powered devices the same arguments will hold true, and this way we won’t have to dive into the exact differences between Homey and an Alexa-powered fridge.

Differences between Homey and Alexa

Let’s start at the core of the product for both platforms/devices. This is already a big difference. Homey, at its core, is a Smart Home platform. That means its main goal is to combine all your devices at home into a single system, including control, automation, monitoring and more. Alexa, on the other hand, is designed as a voice assistant. Its main goal is helping you with a multitude of task through a voice command – from ordering a pizza to playing Jeopardy and, indeed, some device control.

This difference in focus means that the two systems are good at different things. Alexa is great at voice control and interaction, and in performing the most common actions for a huge array of tasks. Homey on the other hand is better at managing your smart home. This concerns a number of points that Homey does differently than Alexa, like: connectivity, automation, analysis and privacy.

Connectivity of Homey and Alexa

Let’s start with connectivity. Now, both Homey and Alexa can connect with smart devices. However, for a device to connect with Alexa it has to be cloud connected. Technically, there is no other way to connect to Alexa. On the other hand, to connect to Homey, a device might also be cloud connected, like for example a smart thermostat. However, not all your devices are in the cloud.

Homey Technology

Therefore, Homey also connects to devices over your local network, and to devices that are wireless, but on a different technology than Wi-Fi. This includes connectivity over 433MHz, used for products like socket switches and motorized blinds; Zigbee, for smart lightbulbs like IKEA TRADFRI; Z-Wave, used by wireless motion sensors and door sensors like Fibaro; and Infrared, to control your tv, Xbox or stereo.

All these devices are not in the cloud. Sometimes you can get them in the cloud, but you will need a hub or gateway per brand or per device. Homey connects directly to these devices and makes them part of your unified smart home. Homey can even – if you want – make them available in the cloud, so you can link them Alexa, even if the brand itself is not capable of that directly.

Homey and Alexa automation

Next to Connectivity, there’s Automation. For automation, Homey has Flow, which is an uniquely powerful way of tying everything in your smart home together. Now we hear you thinking: “what about Alexa Routines?”. And you’re right. However, Routines on Alexa are severely limited compared to Homey’s Flows.

Homey Flow

Routines can be triggered trough one of five options: voice, time, device, arrive/leave or an Echo button. Now this seems interesting! However, some of these options don’t really live up to their promise. Take ‘device input’. Without a Samsung SmartThings Hub or Echo Plus you can’t even use devices to trigger routines. In Homey, on the other hand, you can use all connected devices to start Flows. Want the hallway light to turn on when the door opens? No problem. Want to turn the music off when you turn on the tv? Done.

Another big difference is the …and… option in Homey Flow. This is something Alexa does not have. With this you can have a Flow stop automatically if it meets the right condition. For example don’t get a push notification from your doorbell after 10 PM on weekdays. Or it lets your motion sensor turn on your toilet light to just 10% after getting to bed.

Having these extra options is pinnacle to create an elegant and well-working smart home experience.

Insight in your home

Now this might be a bit more geeky. Of course it’s great to control and automate your smart home like you want to. What’s also great about smart homes is that you can see what it’s been up to. With Homey Insights you can easily track how things are in your home: what has been the living room temperature during the week? How much power has my fridge been using?

Homey Insights

Homey allows you to see this information, and at the same time keeps it just for you. Which ties in perfectly with our last point: privacy

Privacy of your data on Homey and Alexa

Amazon is a service provider. It caters products and ads to you based on what you like. This means that it uses all your Alexa data to ‘know what you like’ and create a profile of you. Amazon can then use this profile of your data.

With Homey, on the other hand, you pay for the product, and for the Smart Home experience it brings. We don’t create profiles based on what you like. The information your home generates is just for you, and our Privacy-by-Design policy prohibits us from using your personal data in another way.

Now, for some quick voice commands, the difference might not be too important. Hooking up your entire home however can be a different thing for some people. The choice you have to make yourself is whether you like the feeling that Amazon knows when you are at home, watching TV and going to sleep.

 HomeyAlexa
Connectivitycloud-connected devices & local devices on Wi-Fi, 433MHz, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Infrared….only cloud-connected devices
Automationexpanded and versatilelimited
Analysisyes (Homey Insights)no
Privacyprivacy-by-design, no profiling or personal data collecteddesigned for profiling and collection of personal data
Voicevia third party integrations like Facebook or Alexadirectly integrated

Homey and Alexa working together

As you can read in the intro: Alexa and Homey are probably better at working together than at replacing each other. They have a very different implementation of some core Smart Home functionality, making them work better together than replacing each other.

Alexa is reliant on gateways and hubs. It needs them to bridge the connection between lots of devices and the cloud. And this is where the combination of Alexa and Homey comes in. With Homey you connect all your devices at home, even different brands and technologies. And you control your entire home from one user-friendly app. At the same time, Homey can also act as a gateway to Alexa. This way, it allows all your connected devices to be available in Alexa too!

Homey & Echo Dot

If you want a solid Smart Home, you now know what Homey can do for you. If you also want the great Alexa voice control, simply partner your Homey with an Echo Dot, and get the best of both worlds.

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