Been a while since I posted, but a lot has happened. Just got back from Hawaii for my brother’s wedding, daughter is growing up, busy with work and I haven’t really had time to post a blog lately, but I decided to post one today about the Amazon Alexa Dot. From my previous posts I have automated most of my house , but I wanted to voice control a portion of it and naturally Amazon’s Alexa seemed the easiest/most widely used. I have had the Dot for about 2 weeks now and here are my thoughts on Alexa and it’s integration with smart home features.
Setting it up was straight forward, you need to use an Android phone or Iphone to connect to the Alexa wifi and then run the alexa application for initial setup.
Integration with the Wemo switches and smart bulbs were straight forward. All I had to do was add the branded smart app skill and then you can use the skill with voice commands.
The huge downside I found is that not all smart devices are supported without various hacks. For example my Chamberlain My Q garage opener is smart and works with my Apple watch and phone but it currently is not supported by Alexa. To use it with Alexa you would have to home brew a solution with OpenHab (read about it here ). I didn’t have enough time to test this out, but the implementation looks straight forward. I was a bit hesitant to try it as well because I had concerns about someone randomly opening my garage with their voice (just doesn’t seem secure haha).
The biggest tip I have with Alexa and Wemo is to name your Wemo devices in the wemo app the name you want alexa to recognize because it carries over to the voice command. If for whatever reason you want to name it something else, you can trick alexa by creating a device group with the name you want the device and adding only that device. For example my dining room table light is called “dining room table fan light” in the wemo app. I didn’t know this would carry over to the alexa app and it is quite a mouthful to say when you just want the light on, therefore I created 3 new groups to link to this device named “dining room” , “dining room table” and “dining light”. I can use any of these names to turn the light off or on through alexa which works a lot better than remembering to call it “dining room table fan light” every time.
Overall I highly recommend the Amazon Alexa Dot, at the price nothing comes close to it. Currently Google home is $100+ and the Dot is a mere $50, even less if you are willing to go refurb ($40). The downsides of this device I have seen so far is that it does not search the web like Siri or Google home, so it will not “wiki” information for you, nor will it figure out complex questions for you. There is also no built in GPS, so it only uses your amazon home address by default (I moved this from my parent’s home to my home and it was still using my parents address for weather, time etc) Also I find that sometimes it does not completely understand my commands. The plus side of the device is the price, size and ease of use, even my 3 year old knows how to use it which is quite amazing. Click on the links below to buy an Alexa device or to learn more about them
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White
Video of my setup below
Brightness control demo