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 - Black
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver  + Philips Hue Bulb included
All-new Echo (2nd Generation) with improved sound, powered by Dolby, and a new design – Charcoal Fabric
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
Introducing Echo Spot - Black
Echo Show - Black
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
All-new Echo (2nd Generation) with improved sound, powered by Dolby, and a new design – Charcoal Fabric
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
Introducing Echo Spot - Black
-
$149.99
$119.99
$79.99
$29.99
$129.99
Echo Show - Black
Echo Show - Black
$149.99
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver  + Philips Hue Bulb included
Echo Plus with built-in Hub – Silver + Philips Hue Bulb included
$119.99
All-new Echo (2nd Generation) with improved sound, powered by Dolby, and a new design – Charcoal Fabric
All-new Echo (2nd Generation) with improved sound, powered by Dolby, and a new design – Charcoal Fabric
$79.99
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
$29.99
Introducing Echo Spot - Black
Introducing Echo Spot - Black
-
$129.99

Last update on 2017-12-11 / 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 - 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 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 (Spotify and Sirius XM support coming soon, Bluetooth not supported).
  • 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
  • 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, 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 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 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.
  • Improved speakers with Dolby processing deliver crisp vocals and extended bass to fill the room with immersive, 360° audio
Sale
All-new Echo (2nd Generation) with improved sound, powered by Dolby, and a new design – Charcoal Fabric
  • All-new Echo (2nd Gen) has a new speaker, new design, and is available in a range of styles including fabrics and wood veneers. Echo connects to Alexa to play music, make calls, set alarms and timers, ask questions, control smart home devices, 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 compatible Echo devices in different rooms. Echo can also play 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.
  • New speaker, now with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and dynamic bass response. Echo can fill the room with 360° omnidirectional audio.
  • With seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo hears you from any direction-even while music is playing
Sale
Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
  • Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more
  • Connects to speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable to play music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Play music simultaneously across Echo devices and speakers connected via cable with multi-room music (Spotify and Sirius XM support coming soon).
  • 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.
  • Controls lights, fans, TVs, switches, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, locks, and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, and others
  • Hears you from across the room with 7 far-field microphones for hands-free control, even in noisy environments or while playing music
Introducing Echo Spot - 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, control smart home, and more
  • Just ask to play a song, artist, or genre, and see lyrics with Amazon Music. Also, stream music and books from Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and 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.
  • 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.
Sale
Vobot Smart Alarm Clock with Amazon Alexa, 5W Speaker, Voice Control, LED Display, Timer/Date/Weather/Daily News/Radio/Music(Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn etc)
  • [Smart clock with artificial intelligence]Easy setup with the free Vobot App. Enjoy Alexa service with the Amazon Alexa App. Touch-initiated and voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, provide information, control smart home devices, listen to news and audio books, report weather, traffic condition and so on. (No Bluetooth)
  • [Alarm/Snooze/Timer/Reminder functions]This device allows you to set alarm, active alarm, recurring alarm( e.g. for weekdays or every Monday), timer and reminder with voice command. Wake to your favortite built-in sounds, TuneIn radio, or any music since you can upload or customize (paste the music URL) the music you like. The alarm clock can be easily turned off by pressing the mute.
  • [LED display/Visualiztion/Customization]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.
  • [Speaker/Streaming media]Built-in 5W speaker and 3.5mm AUX out makes the room full of sound during music playback, and thus you can easily enjoy the streaming media from Amazon music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio.
  • [Portable/other functions]: It is a hands-free device after full charge of the battery. When it is in low battery, it will go deep sleeping and wake up before next alarm (so you can leave it uncharged at night). The clock always show the right time once configured, even after a power and/or internet outage. Our worry-free 12-month warranty and lifetime technical support. Thanksgiving and Christmas Gift.

Last update on 2017-12-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Buy Co, Inc.

*Disclaimer: Most if not all links on this page will be Affiliate Links. This helps pay for things like website hosting and more bits & gadgets to write about.

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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