I’m rather new here and am not sure what you need to know about me, but I have been lurking here for a few days and everyone seems rather nice, so I will start with this…
I am a PhD student (Computer Science specializing in AI) in Ohio and have been getting in home control with my newly acquired Amazon Echo (The Show). I also have a SmartThings hub and a three lights and a lock. I am fascinated by the concept of voice control, obviously mirroring my studies into artificial intelligence. I have the SmartThings/Amazon app install and I can control the lights with that setup. I can also lock the door, but I can’t seem to unlock it. Reading through the forum here (which is extensive), I found ask Alexa which seems to give me control of this. Is that the only application that works with Amazon and Smarthings? Will it work with Google Home? How about Siri? The installation of ask Alexa looks rather laborious, so if there is an easier way to do this I would be interested.
Thanks in advance for your assistance.
(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart)
I would recommend EchoSistant to you. I believe it’s going to be more tuned to your interest.
This question comes up quite a bit, in fact it was just raised yesterday with regard to google home and the answer is the same. There are two very easy ways to do it, one involving the free IFTTT service and one involving using a virtual switch to trigger a routine. The IFTTT method will work the same way with any voice assistant that has an IFTTT channel.
While both askAlexa and echosistant are very powerful smartapps which can extend echo features far beyond what is natively provided, both are also quite complex to set up and probably overkill if all you want is voice control to unlock a lock.
Siri is a different matter. It Doesn’t have an IFTTT channel because that would not meet Apple security requirements. But there are three different ways that you can get Siri integration with smart things.
First, you could just buy a lock which works with both Siri and smartthings. There’s only one right now, the August pro, but it works just fine.
We have an article in community – created wiki listing devices which work with both smartthings and HomeKit. There aren’t many, but there are some.
Second, you can do what we used to do before Amazon created the echo, and that’s use Siri to send a voice text to IFTTT. It doesn’t have natural language recognition and the commands are pretty clunky, but if you don’t have use of your hands, and the other voice devices are not available to you, It can work fine. There’s extended discussion about this method and some other older voice control methods in the following thread:
Finally, as of June 2017 Apple is allowing non-certified devices some access to the HomeKit framework. It’s sort of complicated and there are several different versions out there. Most will require an additional “man in the middle” server like a laptop or a raspberry pi and considerable technical skill to set up. But you can end up with HomeKit access to smartthings – controlled devices, although not the other way around. There are a number of community members doing this, including @pizzinini , So they can say more about it. I myself never used that particular method.
( I’m Quadriparetic , so I tend to follow the voice control technologies pretty closely, But I found a voice text method sufficient for my own needs until additional voice devices were available.)
So the short answer is there’s no security restriction blocking locks from the smartthings channel on the free IFTTT service, So the easiest way is just to do that. If you want something a little more elegant but still quite simple, you create a virtual device and then trigger a routine that unlocks the lock to run with that virtual device turns on. Those will both work well for either echo or Google home.
For Siri, though, you have to look at some of the other options because it doesn’t have an IFTTT channel.
Unfortunately, most of the options above are as you stated “laborious”…
(I recommend you explore them anyway because there are sooo many more things you can do besides just unlocking doors )
Here is my simple suggestion for your specific use case besides IFTTT: (1) Create a virtual button that, if pressed, triggers a Smartthings routine that unlocks the door. (2) Create a Alexa Routine in the Amazon Alexa App to that presses the virtual button.
Thank you for your quick replies! I am not sure how to reply to each of you so I thought I would do it in bulk:
Thank you for the links! I am rather new to SmartThings so I have a conceptual understanding of a virtual switch, but this is the first I have heard of a practical use. Can it be thought of as a proxy of sort? When one is activated, it activates another device? How do you create a virtual device?
Thank you for the link to the assistant application! Are you the author? I did look through your documentation and it looks even more complicated than ask Alexa. Are these the same program with just a different name? As I posted I am looking for an ‘easy’ solution. I spend a lot of time in AWS in my real (school) life working with S3 and VPCs, so I am familiar with these workloads; it is the developer section that I am new to. Also, are you retiring this program? You mention in the title it is soon to be deprecated.
Thank you! I already have a Schlage lock but I have peers that might be interested in those Yale locks.
Thanks…referencing my question above, how does one create a virtual device?
Thank you for the suggestion. That is the app I think I found first…what is WebCoRE?
Again, thank you all for help! As I guessed, everyone is rather helpful here.
Did you ever get your questions answered? I just released a newer version today ([RELEASE] Ask Alexa 2.3.4) and while the installation is still the same (I plan to streamline a part of it very soon…the Lambda section), it is still a detailed install.
Let me know if you have any questions.
(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart)
Yes, I am the developer for EchoSistant, along with the rest of the guys on the EchoSistant team.
No, the two applications are very different. The AWS install and other aspects of it are very similar, that’s just the nature of integrating with Alexa, but beyond that the entire concept of the apps is different.
There are several threads outlining the differences, so I will not clog that up here.
Yes, the current version is about to be retired, for a version that is literally like nothing anyone in everything has seen before.
Version 5 is giving a whole new meaning to automation.
I recommend you gives each a try and see which one gotta your needs best.
But be assured, that when version 5 is released, that cumbersome install process will be ancient history.
Thank you both for your responses! I have read a few of the threads comparing these two applications, but they are rather dated. I may take your advice and install both applications. Would everyone here be open to a review from a newbie? I can compare/contrast the installation and application usage for other new users of SmartThings.
Below is my review of the installation of both Ask Alexa and Echosistant. This will be an abridged review as I have reached out to both authors and they mentioned that their installation processes will be changing considerably, which was my biggest source of pain. Outside of the installation, I focus my review on the documentation and program operation, trying to take a ‘new user’ perspective.
Both authors agreed that neither program is ‘easy’ for the average user to install. It sounds like there are thousands of installs of at least Ask Alexa, so I guess everyone here is more of an advanced user. When comparing the CURRENT INSTALLATION instructions and processes I found Echosistant’s instructions were not as polished as Ask Alexa’s. Ask Alexa’s instructions are more concise, to the point, and are clearly written for a wider audience. In fact, I could not get Echosistant to install properly until I read the Ask Alexa instructions, which then became clear what the other instructions were trying to get across. This is not a criticism of Echosistant or the author, but I see this a lot in the computer science area: engineers come up with a great ideas but documentation and end-user perspective is typically an afterthought. I applaud both authors for acknowledging this daunting installation process and addressing it in future versions.
As for the programs themselves, they behave very similarly. As JD and pizzinini mentioned above, just controlling a lock and some lights using either of these programs is really overkill. So I can’t really recommend either of them for a casual user as the Samsung SmartThings skill allows for simple control of devices or groups of devices without invoking a skill name or a complicated install process. The Echosistant concept of addressing the skill as a room name was rather interesting, but found that was not unique and that the Ask Alexa application has that same functionality. Again, setting up a separate skill for each room would be more than I need, and creates complication and confusion with the installation and maintenance.
I didn’t dive too much into performance, but for whatever reason, I found Ask Alexa to run faster and have less issues understanding me. I don’t think it is my imagination, but don’t have any substantial numbers from testing to prove it. There were also some ‘pet peeve’ areas that made Ask Alexa seem more polished, like when presenting a list of items. For example, when asking which lights are on, Echosistant would not adjust the verb or noun plural state based on the number of devices found (something like “The following lights are on, living room”). In contrast, Ask Alexa will recognize the number of devices listed and change the noun/verb combination or even the whole syntax of the output based on the count of devices.
Overall, it is the ‘little things’ that really swayed my opinion toward Ask Alexa. This includes a clean, consistent user experience and numerous options to allow the program to be customized for each users’ preferences. Again, for me, the default Amazon application on my phone (with the Samsung Smartthings skill) does everything I need it to do for now. For more advanced users, I recommend Ask Alexa.
Thanks to authors of both applications for indulging me with this review. I was also impressed that each author spoke highly of the other. Another thing you learn in computer science is that there are egos involved. Glad there aren’t any here.
To install either application, in my opinion you are no longer considered a casual user.
I would define a casual user as someone who purchased the ST hub, purchased an Alexa device, installed a couple of devices, setup the SmartThings Skill and speaks to Alexa completely native. A casual user has no idea what IDE is or how to login :). So once you go down the road of installing a SmartApp, you are no longer that casual or basic user.
As for the complexity of the locks, maybe overkill, but with Alexa natively you do not have the ability to unlock a lock. But that can be overcome as @pizzinini stated by adding a virtual device to offset and still be able to use Alexa natively. But again, this takes a person away from what I call being the casual user, as this requires the end user to login to IDE, create a new Device with the appropriate device type.
Being competing products, I will say that these guys do a great job keeping things civil and friendly. At least in the public eye Don’t blow smoke and say there aren’t egos. That is not realistic in the world we live in.
They both have brought something to the community that adds a ton of value to SmartThings and Alexa and on top of that, for free. You can’t beat that.
As for the product you choose, it can come down to very minute details, from one piece of functionality, or the way you speak “invocation word or phrase”, documentation, or the initial install to even how things are handled for you from a support perspective. I can personally say that both teams do an outstanding job of supporting their customers or potential customers. An absolutely fantastic job, hands down.
JMHO - No matter what you choose, it’s a win win situation that compliments ST and Alexa all the way around.
(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart)
I have to agree with you here and on several points. Both apps bring a lot of positive to the SmartThings world.
Yes, there are ego’s, but Michael and I have a civil competition. He’s a professional coder, I’m just some dude that has too much time on his hands… lol
But, on the note of the review, I agree with it. Ask Alexa is an outstanding product. I was among the first users of the app and I have followed it since day one. Michael and I worked together on several features and to this day I highly recommend it. But, you are correct, each app has its own nuances that make it more or less appealing to the user.
And in the infamous words of @JDRoberts, “Choice is good”.