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

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Amazon Echo Show. Alexa with 7" Display
Arriving June 28! Amazon announces 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!

“Alexa, show us David’s Room.” – Arlo Demos new Integration with Alexa Show!

 

“Alex, show me the front door.” – Ring Demos their new Alexa Show Integration!

 

You can pre-order the Echo Show now for $230 or get two for $360($100 off) using discount code: SHOW2PACK 

Alexa Shows are scheduled to ship on June 28, get yours now at the link above!

Amazon Echo now has Voice Reminders!

About 4 months ago, 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). Amazon also has the smaller Echo Dot for $79 $49 and the portable Tap for about $129.

Sale! Certified Refurbished Amazon Echo, Echo DOTs & Taps still available for $134, $37 & $94!

Echo Dots Second Generation are available for only $49 each on Amazon  or simply place 6 Echo Dot devices in your cart and 1 is free with code DOT6PACK !

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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 about a month ago. 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.

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.”

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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 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.

Related Read ->  ESP8266 Project Extraordinaire - Interview with Daniel Eichhorn

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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