Alexa

I got an Amazon Echo the day it came out in the UK, and replaced the Raspberry Pi version in my kitchen with it.

I also have an Amazon Dot on order for when in comes out in the UK in a few weeks time. I will use it as a bed-side radio.

The Amazon Echo and Alexa work very well.

I upgraded my Spotify account from Unlimited to Premium to work with Alexa. I have several reasons for wanting to do that, so it was about time.

Spotify works brilliantly with Alexa. The only thing it doesn’t do it let me specify other devices to play Spotify on. (I can do that with Spotify Connect with my Premium account).

Alexa now knows my UK location, which makes a lot of things, like weather reports work better.

Some things have stopped working: IFTTT doesn’t seem to work with UK accounts.  It used to work when my account was effectively a US one. Fitbit integration also seems to have stopped working. I am sure these things will be fixed.

The Echo worked straightaway with my Wemo Insight devices, and with my Hive thermostat. Controlling my heating with Alexa is nice.

Google calendar integration was also straightforward.

I installed ha-bridge on a Raspberry Pi which was very easy, and it has a very nice web interface. It emulates Philips Hue switches. It allows me to control my LightwaveRF devices, my EDF IAMs, and my media devices (Virgin TiVO, TV, AV Receiver) via my existing home automation software and my IR Blaster.

So I now have nearly 30 devices controlled my Alexa.

Device groups didn’t work too well for me as my existing software didn’t cope with the devices being switched simultaneously, so I set them up as virtual devices in ha-bridge instead.

I could do with much better control of my TV, so I might develop an Alexa Skill for that.

At the moment I am getting ha-bridge to talk to node-red by http, and then using MQTT to talk to my home automation software.

I plan to have an Amazon Dot in each bedroom and an Amazon Echo on each floor, so I can talk to Alexa from anywhere in the house.

I am not too sure about security. I don’t want people shouting through the letter box “Alexa, Open the Front Door”.  Luckily I haven’t fitted an IoT front door lock yet, as the ones that would work with my house are too expensive. “Alexa, disarm the alarm”,  also doesn’t work yet, as my alarm system is hard to integrate with.

Buying Amazon products with Alexa doesn’t work yet in the UK, but it probably soon will.

The Alexa phone app now works in the UK. The Alexa web site already worked. Both are useful. I am trying out using the phone app at the shops to look at my shopping list and delete items as they are bought. Alex now recognises “Add Marmite to Shopping List”, which the US version didn’t.

I could do with an Alexa skill to interrogate my home automation system. E.g. to ask for the temperature in a room, or for a breakdown of electricity usage. Or which plants need watering.

It would also be useful if Alexa could speak notifications from my home automation system, but I have a Raspberry Pi doing that at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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