Cool Things You Can do with Amazon Alexa (Echo) and IFTTT

Above is a quick walkthrough of some of the new Alexa Show Features.

Amazon is now shipping the Echo Show! An Echo with a 7" Screen capable of video calls, displaying camera feeds(so far Ring & Arlo Cameras are mentioned), weather, music lyrics and more!

You can now order the Echo Show now for $149! Echo DOTs are on sale for $29.99! 

Echo Show - 1st Generation Black
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal Fabric
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Black
Echo Spot - Smart Display with Alexa - Black
Echo Show - 1st Generation Black
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal Fabric
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Black
Echo Spot - Smart Display with Alexa - Black
from $129.99
from $149.99
$69.99
$19.99
$129.99
Echo Show - 1st Generation Black
Echo Show - 1st Generation Black
from $129.99
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
from $149.99
Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal Fabric
Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal Fabric
$69.99
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Black
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Black
$19.99
Echo Spot - Smart Display with Alexa - Black
Echo Spot - Smart Display with Alexa - Black
$129.99

Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Amazon Echo now has Voice Reminders!

Last year, I purchased an Amazon Echo which we will refer to as Alexa for the rest of the article. My wife wanted an easy way to play music in the kitchen and I was looking to also use it for some Home Automation. Yes, Alexa has a high WAF (Wife Approval Factor). We have since sold that original Echo and replaced with an Echo Show which does greta in the kitchen with it's 7" screen. We also have an Echo DOT and a few Vobots in the house.

Sale
Echo Show - 1st Generation Black
  • Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video content, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. All hands-free-just ask.
  • Call almost anyone hands-free, or make video calls to family and friends with an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App. Instantly connect to other Echo devices around your home.
  • See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music. Just ask to play a song, artist or genre, and stream over Wi-Fi. Also, stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.
  • Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response. Play your music simultaneously across Echo devices with multi-room music (Bluetooth not supported). Adjust the treble, mid, and bass levels with your voice.
  • Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby's room with compatible cameras from Amazon and others. Turn on lights or the TV, set thermostats, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
Sale
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
  • To set up your free bulb, plug in and set up your Echo Plus, plug in your bulb, and ask, "Alexa, discover my devices."
  • Echo Plus is a simple way to start your smart home. It has a built-in ZigBee smart home hub, which allows for simple and direct setup of compatible ZigBee lights, locks, sensors, plugs, and in-wall switches from brands like Philips Hue, GE, and Yale. No additional hub required.
  • Echo Plus connects to Alexa-a cloud-based voice service-to play music, make calls, set timers and music alarms, ask questions, check traffic and weather, and more-instantly.
  • Just ask for a song, artist, or genre from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more. With multi-room music, you can play music on your Echo devices in different rooms. Echo Plus can also play Audible audiobooks, radio stations, news briefs, and more.
  • Call or message almost anyone hands-free with your Echo device. Also, instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home using just your voice.
Sale
Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Charcoal Fabric
  • Echo connects to Alexa to play music, read the news, set alarms and timers, answer questions, control compatible smart home devices, and more.
  • Stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music (coming soon), Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and others. With compatible Echo devices in different rooms, you can fill your whole home with music.
  • Powerful speakers with Dolby technology play 360° audio with clear vocals and dynamic bass response. You can also use your voice to adjust equalizer settings or pair with another Echo (2nd Gen) for stereo sound.
  • Call and message almost anyone hands-free. Instantly drop in on other rooms in your home or make an announcement to every room with a compatible Echo device.
  • With seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo hears you from any direction-even while music is playing.
Sale
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Black
  • Echo Dot is a voice-controlled speaker that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, answer questions, set timers and alarms, and more.
  • Play music from Amazon Music, Apple Music (coming soon), Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
  • Call or message family and friends hands-free, or drop in from the Alexa App to your Echo device.
  • Controls lights, locks, thermostats, and more with compatible connected devices.
  • Use the built-in speaker, or for bigger sound, connect to speakers through Bluetooth or audio cable.
Echo Spot - Smart Display with Alexa - Black
  • Echo Spot is designed to fit anywhere in your home. Use 2nd generation far-field voice recognition to watch video flash briefings, see music lyrics, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. All hands-free-just ask.
  • Echo Spot connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service to play music, read the news, answer questions, set music alarms, control smart home, and more.
  • Just ask to play a song, artist, or genre, and see lyrics with Amazon Music. Also, stream music from Apple Music (coming soon), Spotify, Pandora, and other music services, or books from Audible.
  • Use the built-in speaker or connect to speakers through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable. With multi-room music, you can play music on your Echo devices in different rooms. Adjust the treble, mid, and bass levels with your voice.
  • Ask Alexa to turn on your lights, show baby monitors and front door cameras, and lock your doors. Plus, control your thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, and more.
Vobot Smart Alarm Clock with Amazon Alexa[Touch-Initiate], 5W Speaker, LED Display, White Noise Machine, Timer/Date/Weather/Daily News/Radio/Music(Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn etc)
  • [Touch initated]Easy to connect via Vobot App or visit: myvobot.com. Alexa integrated. Touch initiated and voice controlled device that able to to play music, provide information, control smart home devices, listen to news and audio books, report weather, traffic condition and so on ( Bluetooth is NOT supported).
  • [Alarm/Snooze/Timer/Reminder]Set active alarm/timer/reminder/to do list, and link to calendar via voice command. Alarm sound is customizable with built in sounds, TuneIn radio, or upload your own music. Alarms can be dismissed by pressing MUTE button, and you can set the snooze or dismiss method in Vobot app.
  • [LED readout]LED dot matrix display with smooth surface makes everything clear at the first sight. The display is customizable with multiple options, such as date time, date only, word clock display and12h/24h display
  • [Media streaming/Battery]Built in 5W speaker and 3.5mm AUX out offer good hearing experience. Support music streaming from Amazon music, TuneIn and iHeart Radio.Charging time is four hours and play time is four to six hours depends on the situation (no hurt to the device for charging constantly) .
  • [Why choose us] Reasonable price, good quality, superior service, life time technique support (help@getvobot.com) . Package:1 Vobot clock, 1 USB line, 1 manual guide. NO power adapter included. Please use a 5V/2A adapter to charge Vobot.

Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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There have also been several deals on Amazon where they have been bundling Echo DOTs with other products. We picked up a Sony STRDH770 7.2 Channel Home Theater AV Receiver with an Echo DOT on sale for $222. The Echo DOT works well hooked up to the receiver via Bluetooth. When the receiver is off the Echo DOT speaker will take over and this works better than a direct wire connection using the headphone jack on the DOT.

Amazon changes their combo deals frequently.

If you do have Amazon Prime, you will get access to play from Amazon's Prime Music collection but you can also set it up to use your Pandora account or your Spotify Premium account. Then you can say things like "Alexa, play Pandora The Black Keys" and she will respond with "Playing Pandora The Black Keys station." Want the volume louder, just say "Alexa, louder" and yes it does mostly understand you even when the music is playing! Want the music to stop, just say "Alexa, stop."

You can also play 100,000+ radio stations via tunein radio: "Alex, play KLBJ five thirty A M"

This is how I listen to my local Austin, TX morning news station: "The Todd & Don Show".

Other bonus uses in the kitchen include easily setting timers when cooking: "Alexa, set a brisket timer for 15 hours." 15 hours? Well, I do smoke a lot of briskets! Here's a post I did on Beer Injected Brisket: http://www.craftbeeraustin.com/jester-king-brewery-black-metal-beer-injected-brisket/

Have kids? Alexa can answer some basic question(although not as Knowledgeable as "OK Google") and can also do some jokes like knock-knock jokes.

The initial Alexa setup is done via the Android or IOS App. This app also shows you your latest request as "cards" where you can also provide feedback on whether Alexa did a good job understanding your request.

Here are a few screenshots from the Android App

I think Alexa is a really good addition to Smart Home/Home Automation. Why? Alexa has an excellent microphone array that can understand commands even when music is playing! It's much easier to say "Alexa, turn the porch light on" than to take out your phone, unlock your phone, open an app, and press a button.

Alexa works with many Smart Home - Home Automation products right out of the box which are listed and updated by Amazon here: Amazon Smart Home List

Some familiar names, include Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, SmartThings, Philips Hue, Caseta Lighting, WeMo, Z-wave(with a hub) and more.

Some of these require Alexa 3rd party apps which are called "Alexa Skills" and you can access these from the Alexa app on your phone.

For my Nest Controllers, I am using the "Thermostat Controller" Alexa Skill from Underscore Research which allows more functionality that Nest's Alexa Skill. You can ask what the temperature is set at for your thermostats for example. I will demo this in the video at the end of the post.

If your Home Automation product does not work with Alexa out of the box, all is not lost. There is a service called IFTTT that can often bridge the gap.

IFTTT -  "If This Then That" is a Free Web Service that lets you tie different apps, services, and devices together.

The "If This" part is the Trigger and the "Then That" part is the Action. For example, here are a few IFTTT 'Recipes' I have:

IF my Nest Thermostat senses Temperature over 82°f

THEN send me a notification on my Android Phone (using the IFTTT App).


IF my Ring Doorbell senses Motion

THEN Log an entry to a Google Drive Spreadsheet


IF I say "Alexa Trigger Garage Door Open Sesame"

THEN Open my Garage Door

That last recipe requires 2 other things to work, a Chamberlain Internet-enabled MYQ Garage Door Opener and an OpenHAB Home Automation install.

Update: See a full write up on "How to Use Alexa (Echo) with Chamberlain MYQ"

The MYQ set can be added to most Chamberlain, Liftmaster and Craftsman garage opener made in the last 10 years or so. MYQ by itself is pretty useful and can notify when your garage door opens or closes, is open past a certain time and of course you can open or close your garage door remotely from your phone.

OpenHab is a popular open source home automation solution. It's a little complicated to get it going at first and I will cover that in a future post. Home Assistant is another popular open-source home automation solution. Both of these require you to be somewhat comfortable with configuring things from a command line. If that is not you, then you should look at solutions such as SmartThings, Universal ISY994i, VeraPlus and HomeSeer which are more "Plug and Play" and less "Plug and Pray"!

I already had OpenHab setup to connect to and control my MYQ Garage Door opener on my main Garage Door. My second garage door remote controller is DIY and you can read my post here about it: https://www.wemustbeegeeks.com/esp8266-nodemcu-relay-wifi-garage-door-opener/

Screenshot from OpenHab Chamberlain Liftmaster Craftsman MYQ Garage Door Remote Home Automation

Openhab has a channel(maker) on IFTTT which I had previously connected. Instructions for that can be found here: https://my.openhab.org/docs/ifttt

You'll also need to connect your Alexa to IFTTT here: https://ifttt.com/amazon_alexa

Screenshot of Alexa Echo OpenHab MYQ IFTTT Recipe

What cool things have you done with Alexa and IFTTT?

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