Alexa, the next to dominate in HA?

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#1

With Alexa being able to control more things all the time, is it the next HA controller that could dominate? Alexa can control lights, outlets, speakers, thermostats, etc and it does it hub-less. ST seems to have all the same issues it has had for a long time.

ST seems to be dependent on community developers to create apps to do things that are constantly being requested. Alexa most likely won’t be as easy to develop codes within the system for as ST, but for most users it will have all the functionality they desire and controlled by voice instead of needing to open an app on a smartphone. ST almost requires users to be developers/coders to do things and it can be frustratingly difficult at times if you don’t understand the codes.

Google hasn’t released their functionality yet but it will compete with Alexa. Alexa beat them and Apple to the HA market. Can Alexa be the next step that brings HA to more people and makes it easy to use?


(Dan P Parker) #2

This is not correct. Neither Alexa nor the Amazon Echo/Dot/Tap devices are capable of directly controlling anything. What appears to be device control by Alexa is really the result of that service interfacing with other vendors’ (SmartThings, Ecobee, Wink, etc) cloud-based services, requesting that the latter implement whatever command you’ve issued. Those services then send commands via the internet to their respective hardware platforms in your home, which then (hopefully) do whatever it is that you asked Alexa to have them do.

For instance, your Echo/Dot/Tap has no ZigBee radio, and thus no ability to directly communicate with your ZB-based light bulbs (assuming you have any). For that you still need a ST Hub, Hue Bridge, etc. And even those devices that are WiFi based are not directly controllable by an Echo/Dot/Tap…for various reasons I don’t have time to go into at the moment (perhaps someone else will pick up my slack on that).


#3

Alexa can control Phillips Hue lights, TP-Link outlets, Nest and Ecobee thermostats, Bose speakers. The only hub needed for any of those is the Phillips Hue hub for the lights. TP-Link outlet, Hue light kit and Bose were all sale bundle options on the Dot page on Amazon.


#4

Alexa, which I like very much, adds voice control to existing automation systems. That’s all. It’s a parallel means of control to what you can do with the apps for those systems.

There’s no question that many people really enjoy having that voice control, and it is encouraging them to explore and try additional home automation devices. In that sense, echo is definitely increasing the use of home automation, which is good for the home automation companies as well. That’s why so many of them have added that integration.

I think you’re absolutely right that both the ease-of-use and the intuitiveness of echo have really changed the home automation picture in the last year. It’s certainly a very exciting time. :sunglasses:


(Dan P Parker) #5

I guess I was either a bit unclear, or I misinterpreted what you were claiming. I wasn’t referring specifically to hubs only (though I know that’s the part I quoted from your original post). I was addressing the apparent notion that Alexa somehow is able to directly “control” any of these devices, thus getting around the cloud-based problems that the ST architecture suffers from (among other things).

And while it’s true that the Dot (but not the Echo) can communicate with Bose speakers (and other similar audio devices) via Bluetooth to render audio, I don’t view that as a “control” function…though your view on the matter might differ. In any event, Alexa is not a substitute for the functionality provided by hubs like ST, nor do I think it is likely to ever be.


#6

Alexa directly controls TP-Link outlets, which can be the go to for lights etc. Alexa directly controls NEST. I can control my Nest with fire stick.

It’s understandable when people have invested time and money into a system to be reluctant of other systems, but that doesn’t mean be blind as to what the other systems are offering or coming out with even if it is better or not.

I’m just asking if Alexa is the next step to bring HA to the mass public. ST has had the same issues for a long time (to include reliability and lack of apps among others) and only seems interested in selling more products.

Edited to add: I’m not implying that Alexa doesn’t have issues either. They all do. My fire stick will occasionally freeze and I have to unplug it to get it to respond again to either the remote or voice activation.


#7

Possible, but wait until you can throw your ST hub away then I’d say yes. :wink:


(Dan P Parker) #8

Can you hobble together a limited collection of devices from a subset of vendors that you can issue voice commands to via an Alexa-enabled interface? Sure. But all you’ll have is a small fraction of the capabilities that those devices are capable of delivering when their behavior is cordinated by a smart “programmable” manager like a hub, and you will definitely NOT have a home “automation” system.

Like I said, Alexa is not a substitute for hubs or their functional equivalents. It is great adjunct to home automation systems, but it is not the core of one.


(Christopher Masiello) #9

I think you’re very much onto something. Up until this point hubs (which Alexa is NOT) have been a critical part of the HA landscape. (ST/Wink/Vera/Iris, etc) Their ability to directly communicate with devices was 100% necessary. I’m sure they still will be necessary for a while. Though, not as 100% necessary as before.
If you look at a lot of the most successful consumer products that have come out lately (Alexa/Nest{thermostat, cam, protect}/Hue/WeMo/TPlink/Ecobee/Doorbells/Harmony/some locks) use either no hub (WiFi/Cloud) or their own single purpose hub + Cloud. Not a multipurpose hub like ST/Wink/Iris/etc.
So, a relatively novice consumer could have a lot of things automated and controlled without ever relying on a true hub system like ST. Lights, climate, locks, irrigation, audio, TV, security cams, and more. If you combine it with services like IFTTT and a voice interface like Echo, it can be very powerful. The kind of ease, power, and flexibility that masses of consumers flock to.
Amazon certainly has a big foot in the door with Alexa, plus FireTV. Can the iterate on that? Probably.
Google is the one that I’m really watching. They have a lot of pieces gelling right now (Nest/OnHub/Chromecast/all of the Revolv technology/and some other stuff). The one thing that he also have is tons of experience tying disparate platforms together in the cloud. Think of Gmail/Docs/Apps/etc. They know the plumbing part which is a big part of the challenge in this HA game.
Exciting times ahead.


#10

I would have to respectfully disagree. It all comes down to each person’s individual needs.

As long as you have IFTTT in the mix, which allows you to use Google calendar for time scheduling, IFTTT itself for presence, and all the options of the individual device channels, you can set up a home automation system that will handle lights, door locks, a garage door controller, A/V through harmony, and a smart thermostat, and get a great deal of functionality out of it. For both automated repeated tasks and various control methods, including voice.

A Phillips hue bridge, some Ibeacons, WeMo, Harmony, echo, Arlo cameras, and your choice of thermostat that works with IFTTT and I think you do have a real home automation system. Setting it all up so it’s coordinated the way you want can be complicated, but most of it is set and forget. It offers both manual control and responsive actions. You can also add wireless tag sensors and get a really extensive sensor network if you need one.

It’s not my favorite way to solve home automation, but it’s certainly doable. :sunglasses:


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

Alexa is NOT directly controlling your devices. Your best thermostat is connected to your Wi-Fi. Via that connection it is connected to the nest server system.
Alexa is connected to your Wi-Fi and is connected to the Amazon server system.

When you tell Alexa to set the temp to 75°, Alexa then sends that out to the Amazon server.

Through the Alexa/nest integration, the Amazon server is talking to the nest server.

The nest server then sends the command to your thermostat, via the Wi-Fi connection.

That is not direct control. Direct control is when arcs is using actual commands directly to the thermostat and the thermostat respond.

If you don’t believe me, turn off your router and try telling she’s to do anything, anything at all.


#12

Most people don’t want all of the capabilities that a hub like ST can offer, especially if it means creating/looking for codes like ST basically forces its users to do. Don’t think so? ST refused to make apps for Nest, but community developers made an app and they did an awesome job. Most people just want to control lights, music, tv, thermostat, maybe an alarm clock and other easily controlled items that are not as extensive as ST is capable of but that Alexa can do.

Like I said earlier, when people have time and money invested in a product they don’t want to see what other products are out there that could possibly be better, in this case you’re view that Alexa is not a substitute. For many people Alexa could not only be a substitute but more than adequate for their needs/wants. I asked a simple question of is Alexa the next step. You seem to have taken this as a personal attack against you since I’m saying that ST isn’t that best thing going.


#13

True, Alexa does go through Amazon’s servers to tell Nest and other products what to do. I did not mean that Alexa controls Nest without WIFI. I just meant it directly controls it without the use of ST or other HA hub. Turn off your ST hub and Alexa will still communicate with Nest. Turn off your WIFI, ST with not connect to anything either.


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

You do realize that Alexa is NOT the device? ? ?

Alexa is the software that find on the AWS servers. Alexa is currently found on the following devices: Echo, dot, tap, fire stick, and a few other devices I can’t remember.

I just wanted to make sure you are clear on that add it sends you believe Alexa is actually directly controlling devices that are connected to other platform systems, IE nest, link, Cree, Lutron, Boise.


#15

SmartThings didn’t refuse to make a service manager for nest. They wanted to. But the SmartThings platform itself allows individual developers more control than the nest terms of service allows. The communitycreated apps for nest are in fact violations of your nest terms of service, which is why smartthings recommends using them at your own risk. They would still like to get permission from nest for an official integration, but it doesn’t seem likely because they are conflicting platform philosophies.


#16

There’s no Wi-Fi radio in the smartthings hub. It doesn’t use it.

It’s directly cabled to the Internet router and accesses your LAN that way, but it doesn’t require even that to use smart lighting to control zwave light switches or respond to zigbee motion sensors.

The SmartThings hub contains two separate controllers, both third-party certified: a Z wave plus primary controller and a zigbee Coordinator. Both are capable of talking to some of your devices locally even when the Internet is off.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #17

Turn off your Wi-Fi, and there isn’t anything being controlled by anything, including Alexa.

But ok, you were very much coming across as believing that Alexa is controlling devices.
I just wanted to make sure you understood that isn’t the case.

But, what is seeking to be hubless control is actually just control of Wi-Fi devices. Their hub is the company server.


#18

I’m well aware that Alexa is not a device. My point was that it can control things that had to be previously only controlled via hubs. I was trying to show that a physical hub in your house is not needed for most peoples’ uses now with options like Alexa on the market.


(Christopher Masiello) #19

I think you hit onto an important part of this complex debate. Yes, obviously a true home automation system has more power, flexibility, and control. Lots more. And for the type of enthusiasts, tinkerers, and geeks that make up this community (and its competitors) that’s exactly what we want. Unfortunately/fortunately, we are NOT the fat part of the bell curve.
The mass market consumer is far more likely to start with something like an Alexa or a Nest. Then they’re going to try to add something on like Hue lights. This slow creep of very popular consumer oriented products is a very real entry path for far more people than what the folks on these forums do. I’ve spent my whole career and free time explaining very complicated things to people in very simple ways. They don’t know or want to know about the plumbing. They just want things that do what they want. The real winners in the space are going to be the ones who can get a lot of consumers 75% of the power with 10% of the effort. Amazon/Google/Apple these types are likely choices.


(Christopher Masiello) #20

You’re right and technically wrong on this. Technically, it’s not “directly controlling” these devices. Just ask any technical expert on here.
However, the consumer, who will ultimately decide who the winners and losers are in this game, doesn’t care. When they issue a command and it happens - that’s all that matters. My mom and dad are not trying to build and autocad drawing to reverse engineer what happened. They just don’t care. They come into a cold, dark, quiet house and say, Alexa: turn on the lights, raise the temperature, play some music. And boom - it happens.
Here’s the whole point - Alexa didn’t directly control ANYTHING. My mom and dad did. And that’s what people who spend the money to win these games care about.