Amazon Echo in Home Automation

When I purchased the Amazon Echo, I never thought it would have any place in my home automation system.  But, thanks to several software updates it has found a very nice place in my home automation system.

When the Echo was first announced, it was $99 for Amazon Prime members.  I was looking for a way to have music in my kitchen, and most bluetooth speakers were in that price range so I decided to go with the Echo.  Amazon released the Echo in a very slow manner in the beginning.  I ordered in January, and didn’t see it until May.  About a week before they shipped my Echo, they announced that the Amazon Echo would control Philips Hue lights and IFTTT integration. I was beyond excited.

Immediately I set up an IFTTT account.  (I will get into IFTTT and my productivity apps soon.)  And began setting up “recipes” to interact with Todoist, my to do list app.  This allows me to say things like “Alexa add milk to my shopping list” and it will add it right into my shopping list which I store in Todoist.  I can also say “Alexa, remind me to vacuum” and it will be added into my Todoist inbox.

So, what is the Amazon Echo and what does it do?  The Amazon Echo is essentially a Bluetooth speaker that connects to Amazon’s cloud and cloud services.  You can ask it things just like Siri or “Hey Google” and it will give you answers.  I have mine in the kitchen and I use it all the time for measurement conversions.  Amazon Echo also has built in timers and alarms which makes it even more useful in the kitchen.  And because the Echo is always listening you can interact with it even when your hands are covered in food goo.

For music lovers, the Amazon Echo is also connected to Amazon Prime and can play all of the free play lists, and if you buy your music through Amazon you will have access to all of that as well.  I wish there were a way to attach iTunes to it nicely but there really isn’t.  You can attach your iPhone or iPad to it and use it as a Bluetooth speaker, but I haven’t been able to connect my mac to it.  I’d love to be able to stream from my iTunes Library on my computer since I have most of my music there.  Another great thing for music lovers is the integrations with iHeart Radio, Pandora, Tunein and Audible for book lovers.

Let’s get to the fun stuff, the home automation stuff!  The first integration Amazon added was for Philips Hue lights.  All you need to do is hit the “Big Button” on your Philips Hue Bridge after saying “Alexa discover my appliances”.  Your echo will connect to the Hue Bridge and add all of your lights and allow you to control them with your voice. It will even recognize the names you gave them.  You can turn your lights on and off, and even control the brightness of your lights.  Inside of your Echo app you can group the lights together, and control groups of lights.  Helpful tip: make a group for all of your lights but call the group “Every” since the Echo has trouble deciphering all and hall.

I was surprised when my Amazon Echo recognized my GE Link bulbs and was able to control them.  I decided to go out and get more lights.  This time I decided to get some Cree Connected bulbs.  Which for some reason despite adding them to the Philips Hue Bridge, the Echo won’t see them.  I have since been able to add them using a Wink Hub, but that’s for another post.

In the end, I love my Amazon Echo.  I use it everyday.  That being said, I got it at the introductory price of $99.  It’s now listed as $179.  I love it but I don’t know that I love it $180 worth.

Because the Amazon echo is a fairly new device and the integrations with lights is new and still being developed, I’ve had to call into Amazon a few times.  Their support is AMAZING.  Just had to throw that in there!

Happy Automating!

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