SmartThings Community

Alexa home control with SmartThings? (Specifically locks)

(Anni) #9

Everyone

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:

To JD,

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?

To bamarayne

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.

Jkp

Thank you! I already have a Schlage lock but I have peers that might be interested in those Yale locks.

Pizzinini

Thanks…referencing my question above, how does one create a virtual device?

Cal1319
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.

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(Micheal ) #10

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.

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #11

Hello,

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.

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(Anni) #12

MIchaels/Bamaryne,

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.

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(Micheal ) #13

I am fine with it as long as you review the latest versions…I just updated some of the extensions and utterances.

Thanks for asking!

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #14

Sounds great to me… But you have to promise to add a review of EchoSistant V5 as well.

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(Anni) #15

Jason,

Is version 5 released? If so can you point me to its location as I am starting testing tonight.

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #16

Sorry, still in development… But well worth the wait.

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(Anni) #17

All,

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.

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[RELEASE] Ask Alexa
(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #18

Thanks for the review! Much appreciated. I’ll be the four-day to admit that there are similarities between the two, and lately they have been becoming more and more alike.

There are definite documentation issues that we have hopefully resolved. We took the easy route on this, we just made them obsolete.

Ask Alexa is a much older app with a wider user base. At last count EchoSistant is around 700. Which is fine. Each app has it’s pluses and we do target a different user type than what ask Alexa does.

There is room for improvement and we look forward to making them.

Thanks again and stay tuned for those improvements soon.

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#19

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 :slight_smile: 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.

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #20

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”.

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(Micheal ) #21

Thanks for your review! I don’t have much to add except thank you for your honesty and giving both applications a side-by-side comparison. And, there are egos…glad you haven’t encountered any so far…we try to keep civil :smiley:

I did have a couple forum tips for you, however. I almost didn’t see this review even though you mentioned you were working on it. Maybe put it as a main topic so other new users could see it by searching by the name of the application they are looking…someone PMed me to point out you had posted this. Also, put an AT sign (@) in front of a user’s name and they will be alerted that they were mentioned in a post.

Thanks again and I hope you get more devices in your environment so you can really utilize the power of the application you choose.

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(Anni) #22

Michael (or @Michaels),

Thank you for your suggestions. I am not new to forums, but the formatting of this one is a bit different than the ones we use here at the university. I see you didn’t put @ in front of my name but I was alerted to your message nevertheless. I assume that is because you replied directly to my post?

Great suggestion of making a dedicated forum post for this review. It would certainly help new users search as I spent two weeks doing my research. If @bamarayne agrees I will do that. I will need to put some context into it and edit it slightly, but this is a great idea.

As for more devices, I have already put a Christmas list together for my fiance’ of other devices we might get for our apartment. Do you have any suggestions for outdoor temperature sensors or interior motion sensors?

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(Micheal ) #23

No need to tag a name when you are replying directly.

As for your question, I just picked up some Aeotec Multisensors 6 (https://www.amazon.com/Aeotec-Multisensor-temperature-humidity-vibration/dp/B0151Z8ZQY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511973773&sr=8-1&keywords=aeotec+multisensor+6) for my outdoor areas and they work great. They also do motion sensing along with lux, UV, humidity, etc. And they are Ask Alexa compatible (as of Friday that is :)). For the interior you could use the same devices, but you probably won’t get as much use out of the lux and UV portions as glass windows cut down on those values.

I personally use the Fibaro motion detectors (https://www.amazon.com/Fibaro-FGMS-001-ZW5-Motion-Multisensor/dp/B01KOGDETI/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1511973800&sr=1-2&keywords=fibaro+motion+sensor) for the only reason of them being round, fit in the corner of a room nicely, and look like an eye when they light up :slight_smile:

Just one note on all of these devices…buy a LOT of 123A batteries…both of the devices above use these. While they last about a year or two, when they go out the ALL seem to go out at the same time.

Hope that helps!

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(Anni) #24

Michael,

Both you and Jason have stated that your programs will be changing radically in the near future. While I see the benefit of having this as a main topic in the forum, it also appears to be a ‘moment in time’ review. If you have no issue with it, I will keep the topic here. I did a search test and it appears to be searchable when entering criteria such as “Echosistant” and “Ask Alexa”.

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#25

You will have to do a fresh review in 2018 as they release more functionality. But it won’t be from a new user perspective anymore, as you will be an advanced user of both :grin:

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(Micheal ) #26

I have no problem with that. You are correct that I will changing my app (or, more correctly, I am constantly changing it :slight_smile: ), but to be clear, these will be upgrades to the install progress and adding new features; the underlying program and concepts won’t change.

Either way, you are correct…this is a ‘moment in time’ review and I can always point people here (if the data is still accurate). I do a Friday update for the users of Ask Alexa and will include it in there as well.

Thanks again for the review and feedback. Good to have you in the community.

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(Anni) #27

Hello!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. As I anticipated I received a lot more SmartThings devices for the holidays. I stayed up all Christmas night installing them and building new automations. I even went through the installation of Ask Alexa again using @MichaelS new code. I have to say he did make the installation a bit less difficult with this latest version. I also used his Alexa Virtual Switch Creator to create multiple virtual switches on the fly that I can use to tie in the main Amazon Alexa application to either WebCore or Ask Alexa. While I only scratched the surface of Ask Alexa during my review, I have found there is a lot of power in this app that can be unleashed with a good number of devices in your home.

Anyone else get any new devices for their households?

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(Micheal ) #28

Thanks for the compliments and giving Ask Alexa another chance. I post a Friday update every week here ([RELEASE] Ask Alexa) that you should keep an eye on. While the last version cut the copying and pasting down in the Lambda area, the next release (next year) will focus on the Developer area. I will cut the copy/pasting down to one action for all of the data required to personalize this area (this was previously over 10 copy/pastes).

As for me, I got the new Amazon Spots for Christmas…these are fantastic little devices that sound better than the Dots, but not as good as the Shows. They are perfect for a bedroom where a Show might be too bright or too much screen.

Finally, I am glad you like the virtual switch creator. For those that are not familiar with it, here is the link: [RELEASE] Alexa Virtual Switch Creator.

Again, thank you for the comments. It sounds like you are ‘hooked’ into the smart house addiction!

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