Amazon Echo now does home automation

Amazon Echo now does home automation

Update: as June 23rd, the general public can now pre-order Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) with an “in stock” date of July 14th.

Amazon sent me a copy of an e-mail that went to

Amazon Echo

owners.

I’m not quite one of those yet.🙂 Mine is supposed to be here by 8:00 PM tomorrow night…although it says it hasn’t shipped (they could still make it).

This brings a feature which people have really wanted!

The Echo, which is not yet on sale to the general public (Prime members have been able to request invitations to purchase it at about $100 ((roughly half price)), but that has just been turned off, perhaps portending general sale soon), is Amazon’s “ambient computing” device.

You have it in your house…and you talk to it, and it does stuff.😉

It’s been able to do quite a few things (add things to a shopping list, play music, tell jokes, do traffic, do weather…), but we’ve all been picturing it as being able to take actions with things in our houses.

“Alexa, play some Barry White…and dim the lights.”😉

“Alexa, start my coffeemaker.”

“Alexa, turn off my holiday lights.”

Well, that ability is now here!

I’ve asked for permission to share that e-mail, if I can, I will.

I did want to go ahead and tell you more about it.

This may seem like a silly thing, but for people with a disability, it can be very important. Some people have a hard time manipulating a tablet or a phone. Think of someone like Stephen Hawking, who has the ability to speak (with a synthesized voice), but can’t physically do much.

For other people, it will just be cool…like Star Trek.

The basic way it works is that you plug something into a home automation device. You name the item, and then you have the Echo “discover it” on your wi-fi network.

At that point, you can tell the Echo (in a normal voice, even across the room) what do with it.

It will work with these home automation devices at this point (might work with more)

WeMo

Hue

Gee, that might give a different meaning to using your “inside voice”.😉

The future is yours…just for the asking!

“It’s time to put on makeup…it’s time to light the lights!”

I could keep going…😉

Update: just got permission to quote the e-mail:

===

WeMo and Philips Hue products now work with Amazon Echo.

You can now use Echo to switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie—all without lifting a finger…or even raising your voice.

To get started, connect your WeMo and Hue devices to your home Wi-Fi and name them in their respective app. Then say, “Alexa, discover my appliances.” After Echo’s confirmation, you can control your devices by voice.

Things to try:

  • “Alexa, turn on the hallway light”
  • “Alexa, turn on the coffee maker”
  • “Alexa, dim the living room lights to 20%”
  • “Alexa, turn on the electric blanket”
  • “Alexa, turn on the outdoor decorations”

Supported products:

  • WeMo: Switch, Insight Switch, and Light Switch
  • Hue: A19, Lux, BR30, Bloom, and LightStrip lights

As always, the Amazon Echo team looks forward to your feedback via the Amazon Echo App and on social media (#AmazonEcho).

===

Bonus deal: I don’t like to do a post without doing something on books: here are a few notable recent discounts. I got these by going to what I consider the best resource for Kindle book buyers on the web,

eReaderIQ.com

I am not connected with them except as a user, although we have had correspondence.

  • Marley and Me by John Grogan: $4.32 (down from $10.19)
  • In Good Faith (Joe Dillard #2) by Scott Pratt: $0.99 (down from $3.99)
  • Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury: $4.20 (down from $9.48)
  • Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar: $2.99 (down from $9.59)

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

9 Responses to “Amazon Echo now does home automation”

  1. jjhitt Says:

    “Alexa, open the pod bay door.”

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      The Echo has had joke responses to that request since it was released, I think, but hypothetically, yes it becomes possible with this updated capability…if you have a pod bay door that can be run by one of these devices, of course.😉

  2. jjhitt Says:

    It will interesting to see when you can schedule events and give complex instructions:

    “Alexa, turn off porch light 30 minutes before local sunrise, then at 05:45 start coffee maker and at 06:00 play Beethoven’s Ninth, LOUD. Goodnight, Bedroom light off.”

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      Yes, those would both be good.🙂 You could have it turn on a timer at this point, I suppose, using the home automation (something which was a timing device, I mean).

      I’ve been thinking that it would be good to be able to turn on a “conversation mode”, where the Echo listened to multiple sentences and replied. Perhaps by initiating it with something like, “Alexa, let’s talk,” and then having it stop with either a command (“Alexa, that’s enough”) or through an inactivity timer (like one minute of silence means it goes back into silent listening mode).

  3. John Aga Says:

    Hugo Awards Best Novel Nominations:

    1. Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie, Hatchet Book Group
    2. The Dark Between The Stars, by Kevin J. Anderson, Macmillan
    3. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, Macmillan
    4: Lines of Departure, by Marko Kloos, Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    5. Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, Penguin Group (USA) LLC

    Nice to see a Hugo Awards nomination for a science fiction novel published through Amazon. Is this a first for Amazon self publishing. I am not aware of another up to this point? I have read the first two books in the trilogy and enjoyed them both very much. LInes of Departure is the second book in the series.

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    This has been an echo-centric day for me. First, I decided to use my Surface Pro laptop today instead of my Samsung ATIV — as I wanted to explore 16:9 vs 3:2 aspect ratio issues (bottom line 16:9 is really bad for “normal” tasks 3:2 is much better).

    My echo has been connected to the Samsung since day one.

    I wondered how to connect another laptop to it (i had forgotten what Echo setup was all about — had to go find the documentation :grin). It’s surprisingly easy — so a useful exercise. Next I need to go back to the Samsung and see if setting Echo up on Surface loses setup on Samsung.

    Then the email, the subject of your post, deals with only a few peripheral (IMO) home automation products. I’m a big user of Smarthome.com’s Insteon products — so another trek to find out how to send meaningful Echo feedback to Amazon (also easy — part of the Echo app).

    So in addition to asking for Insteon support, I asked for:

    – multi-echo, multi-room, customizable wakeup name support as well as multi-echo integration and synchronization
    – provide interfaces to todo list functionality in MS Outlook and OneNote (the included echo list support is pretty lame — not ready for prime time).
    – ability to ask Alexa to buy a song from Amazon Music, when Prime music only serves up a 30 second sample
    – ability to use Echo to in general buy stuff from all the Amazon stores

    Each feedback request goes as an email to the Echo team — they promise to respond to each within 12 hours — be interested to see how that goes.

    Hope you enjoy your new echo (:grin)

  5. rogerknights Says:

    I wonder if the Echo is something that Steve Jobs and successors at Apple said No to. It could have been introduced years ago. There was no technological barrier. Apple has lost its upstart spirit. Amazon has stolen a march on it.

  6. D. Knight Says:

    Hi, Bufo,

    Just wanted to share my experiences so far with home automation using the Echo:

    I happen to own a WeMo switch already. I got it during a lightning deal a few months ago and my intended use hasn’t happened yet (too long to explain here), so I hadn’t used it yet. So I decided to break it out and attach it to a lamp so I could test it with Alexa.

    It was frustrating to set up, but that was due to ignorance on my part and this being brand new for the Echo. (Also, I could have looked for Amazon’s help page, but I didn’t).

    I opened the box, plugged switch and lamp in–that wasn’t frustrating🙂 Then I asked Alexa to discover my devices, and she couldn’t find it because you have to use the WeMo app *first* to connect the device to your home network. So I did that, and asked Alexa again to discover my devices–she responded found one device.

    Now I wanted to test it, but I didn’t know what it was called. Alexa didn’t understand any of the questions I asked to try and find out, so I went to look at the Echo app on my Fire, but it wouldn’t update to the new version (my guess is it got stuck because I attached a device before I allowed the app to update). So I rebooted my Fire, which fixed that problem.

    The “Connected Home” section is under “Setting” on the app. It lists the devices, but you can’t change the name there–it uses the same name you used to set it up on the WeMo app, and if you want to change it, you must change it on the WeMo app and rediscover the device on Echo.

    Okay, finally! [sigh] I say, “Alexa, turn Light on.” Alexa responds “Okay” but “Light” does not turn on (and yes, I’d already tested it through the WeMo app). Repeating the question several times did not change anything BTW.🙂

    So back to the WeMo app. Soon as I opened the app, it said it needed to do a firmware update (I don’t know why it didn’t recognize the update requirement earlier). This takes 5 – 10 minutes.

    Now, finally (again). “Alexa, turn Light on” and “Light” actually comes on. Success!

    Even though I was frustrated setting it up, now that it is done it is a lot of fun and I’m making plan to purchase the Hue lighting system.

    BTW, something you might want to pass on because it is not at all clear: buying an individual Hue bulb by itself will not work. You have to buy the bridge too (included in the starter set). When you ask Alexa to discover devices, it tells you to press the button on the Hue Philips bridge.

  7. Harold Delk Says:

    We Alexa lovers have learned that you must phrase your commands fairly well for her to understand; I won’t spoil your fun in learning what does and does not work because she tends to suurprise you when you least expect it. I will assure you however that if you ask, “Play some Barry White and dim the lights” that you will confuse her as she cannot handle compound commands. Make tthat two commands and all will be fine and you will have the lights turned down with Barry’s mellow voice to set the mood.

    We, the Echohead community, look forward to your upcoming commments. Be patient with Alexa, she’s still a growing child. We took her camping over the Easter weekend with her friend Mifi and she astounded fellow campers. I would appear to be talking to the RV, asking it for the weather forecast and she would answer loudly. They thought my wife was answering them … so when they peeked in the open door and saw the device I used the remote to have Alexa say, “Quit staring at me, that’s rude.” Yep, we had an interesting camping trip and left a few fellow campers shaking their heads … and wondering what the future will hold.

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