[DEPRECATED] Ask Alexa 2.3.0

Version 2.3.0 of Ask Alexa

I am pleased to announce the 2.3.0 version of Ask Alexa! In this version I continue (along with help from the community) to evolve the application to allow more conversational syntax, along with adding more functionality for existing and new devices.

This will be a simple upgrade for you…only the IDE apps have been updated…the main app, the voice reports, message queue and the weather reports have new code…everything else (including the Lambda code) can remain the same. I DO recommend (especially if you use the new Foobot air quality monitor device) to update your developer slots as new functionality is enabled in this version.

PLEASE NOTE: Now that this app is rather stable (It is now over 1 ½ years old!) now I will be updating it less frequently except for bugs and new features. I am waiting for Amazon to release their ‘push’ notifications where some amazing stuff will happen with this app. Until then, if you do have a great feature idea for this app, just let me know.

Other additions to this new version include:

  • Bug Fixes - The normal things…silly misspellings, logic errors, bug reports. If you had an issues with inconsistent results when using the simulator and your voice, I have found Amazon changed some outputs. Thanks to @storageanarchy for pointing out an issue with the weather report (which has been fixed by SmartThings, but I put in new code to prevent it in the future). Also thanks to the patience of @ADHawk in troubleshooting a battery issue. His help allowed me to improve the interactions with non-compliant DTH devices
  • Code Optimization - Always finding better ways to do things in a shorter about of code.
  • Device Specific Commands - As I mature the product I am finding things that no longer made sense that did when I first created the app. One of them is the placement of device specific commands into the Settings area. These are for things like Nest Thermostats, StelPro baseboard heaters, virtual presence sensors, etc. Basically, anything that is ‘non-standard’ was sequestered away into this area. I got some feedback that these feel ‘hidden’ so I moved the specific items to their respective locations on the main menu. So, all varieties of thermostats will appear when you choose your thermostat. If you choose a presence sensor, an option to enable the virtual presence sensor commands will appear, and so on.
  • Foobot Air Quality Monitor support Working closely with @Matthew_Freestone Ask Alexa now integrates this device into not only device support but voice reporting as well. In keeping with my personal philosophy of adding value instead of just duplicating features, you can get MORE information than the native Foobot skill! This is very unique device with a lot of options, and they can be accessed now with Ask Alexa! Please note that you will need a custom DTH to work with this device, which I took took ownership of and documented. Information can be found here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Foobot_Air_Quality_Monitor . I actually just bought one of these units based on working on the development of this integration with Matt. Thanks to the amazing work of @AdamV on his initial work on this DTH

Partner Announcements
While I don’t have any new partners to announce, I will in the coming weeks as there is a new integration in the works.

For those with IDE integration with GitHub, simply update the repository and you will have the latest code for the SmartApp itself. However, for ALL aspects of the application follow the original instructions for installation to ensure you get everything updated properly:
The wiki for this app is here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa

All of you have been great in asking very relevant questions and making suggestions that I end up using. Here are some helpful tips on usage and support:

  • Sometimes it works best if I can work real time with you. To facilitate this, I have created a Slack channel: https://askalexa.slack.com. Using this tool is easy and will allow for real-time collaboration to solve the problems faster. To use this feature, I must invite you to the Slack channel. This will not be for normal questions; please use this forum for that function.
  • The Echo, as it is designed currently, cannot react to switches opening or other actions within SmartThings. She will do things for you, but only at your direction and at the time of the request. The delay timer mentioned in the control macro happens at the SmartThings hub, not within the Amazon Alexa control. See the new Message Queue functions for similar functionality with Big Talker!
  • When evaluating new features I will typically ask for a valid use case. If it can be used by others to bring them value I will put it on my list of future revisions. Not all suggestions will be used and many times I add aspects of the request.
  • There are no dumb questions, but many of the questions you may have were probably answered in the year since the initial release. Please take some time to go through the forum and the wiki if you have issues. And don’t be offended if I give you the specific area of the manual that answers your question. I have spent almost as much time on the documentation as I have on the app. Finally, there are some big fans of Ask Alexa that know almost as much as I do. They can also help.
  • Feel free to send me forks of utterances or even code revisions. As mentioned above, if it adds value to the overall program I will try to include it. This also goes for the wiki documentation…while I have spent over a year creating this document, I am open to it being improved; I know there are probably still grammatical errors or syntax issues…If you find them, fix them…I will include your name (if I can) in any fixes submitted.
  • If you find a bug or a consistent crash please help me track it down by giving me repeatable steps to reproduce it. A non-reproducible bug, many times, indicates other areas that may be at fault besides the app. If you watch the live logging and see a red error with a line number, that is very helpful to me! However, I will need a full screenshot and not a copy/paste of the text. But be careful about revealing your OAuth and AppToken in your public posts. People can control you house with that information. You may want to blur that out.

As mentioned above, revisions will be less and less now. And with the code base now unified, I expect less and less additions…especially as I partner with other application developers to ensure their strengths can be brought into the notification model of Ask Alexa . Any and all suggestions are still on the table for addition.

To prep for the next version, be sure to take some good notes about any weather voice reports you have set up…I will be moving the weather piece to it own extension app. However, it will still be able to work in any voice report you have set up. Then, the fun begins with addition another extension after the next one!

As always, I appreciate any public accolades or even donations to my PayPal account: https://www.paypal.me/mstruck . And, if you are so inclined, I also will accept bitcoins (or fractions thereof) if you have any laying around. My wallet ID is: 1CMgaiKgBfojTBCLpHLfa9KvcrW3cNxVpm


Sweeeeet! Thanks again for all your hard work! Ask Alexa is awesome!

1 Like

Every time I enable whisper mode, Alexa just whispers “undefined” any idea what I’m doing wrong? The action still works, so if I say turn off kitchen lights, it works just she whispers undefined every time!

In what context…when ANY command is given, or specific ones? Or is this in macros or just devices…And if you turn it off everything works fine? Are you at the latest version of everything, and did this just start happening or after the last upgrade?

In this particular circumstance a screenshot of your live logging would be helpful to see what is going on.

I’m on 2.29e just literally upgraded today. Haven’t used the app for a while, so might have to review the whole setup in case something changed and I’ve missed it. Every single command I issue gives me a voice reply of “undefined” when I turn on whisper in the app. I’ll dig into it further as any status request on a device I ask for doesn’t give any voice reply at all.

When you went to 2.2.9 did you also upgrade your Lambda? That is required.

I just tested this on my system and it is working, so I would ensure you are using 1.2.9 of the Lambda code…

I updated the app to 2.3.0a. I found a few minor items that I could change as I was starting on the next version.

You should be able to upgrade via the IDE/GitHub integration.


@MichaelS, I’ve been lurking on your AA pages for a while, biding my time with Alexa Helper. Seeing the major release tonight, I bit the bullet and setup AA using the wiki instructions. I was successful, but I had to overcome what I think were some updates to the Amazon Lambda/Developer accounts process since the wiki was written (ST side was fine, including Git integration). Had I thought about it at the time, I would have taken some new screenshots for you, but that would probably be advisable (along with some light update driven revisions) for new users going forward. My test commands have been successful, now it’s time to hunker down with the manual and take this baby for a spin!

Many thanks for everything you do, both Alexa driven and your community involvement!

Thanks for the note…I think I will go through the process myself as you are not the first to mention that the screens have changed.

Have a look tomorrow morning and see if the flow is more accurate as I should be done with my updates by then.

I really appreciate the feedback and am glad despite the instructions you were able to get it operational!

MichaelS, thanks for the update and helping fix my setup issue. i do have a question for you, I want to ask Alexa if any windows or doors are open, and if so, which one(s) how would I set up a function that I could voice encore that would tell me?


The best way to do that is through a voice report. You could call it Window Report, or even call it something that give the feeling of natural language such as “which Windows or Doors are open”, however, Amazon really recommends commands be three syllables or less…But, try it…Then, you will set up your report similar to this:

If you want every item to report, turn off the “Summary” thing at the bottom. But again, if you want a natural response turning this on might be what you are looking for.

Let me know if that works for you.

Works a treat, thanks!

1 Like

I did update quite a few screenshots and text…let me know if you find specific areas that still are unclear.

Thanks again for the suggestion.

Michael, I have another request that I’m not sure how to build, or if it’s even possible.

I’ve set up a macro so that when I say “Alexa, ask Smartthings to turn on House alarm” it triggers a WebCore piston that waits 30 seconds and then runs the SHM action to turn on the alarm, the macro says “Alarm setting in 30 seconds” and it all works great.

What I want though, is a way for Alexa to say “Alarm setting in 30 seconds” and then when 10 seconds are left, count down from 10 to zero. Is this possible? I realise that we can’t get Alexa to say something without a voice prompt, but it is possible to insert a pause in the message she gives so that the message is “Alarm setting in 30 seconds”, 20 seconds of silence “10, 9, 8, 7” etc. you get the picture :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, that is not possible currently. You CAN enable an alarm using a delayed macro, but the countdown part will not work on Alexa directly as it can only respond immediately to commands…any delayed response would require Alexa to ‘wake up’ on its own and start talking…This isn’t and probably won’t ever be allowed on Smart Speakers as there apparently is a fear of ‘scaring’ consumers.

This is possible with external speakers like Sonos and the like, but one Alexa stops talking she won’t wake back up. And to address your next possible question…Yes…it probably would be possible to simply have the response to you setting the alarm to be an actual count down…but to have it respond then wake back up 10 seconds before the alarm goes off…not quite yet and possibly never.

Looks good, future AA installers thank you! I think the updates you made directly address most of the things I tripped on :slight_smile:

Perfect…I aim to please…if you ever spot anything in either the app or the documentation, just let me know and I can address it quickly.

Just updated for version 3 - all went perfectly. I love this app.

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Here is an update on development of yet the next version:

[RELEASE] Ask Alexa

I’m having a humorous problem with setting up Ask Alexa to check the status of my garage door. My wife’s name is Jana which is pronounced with a Y as Yana. So I set up an alias for “Yana’s garage” which of course didn’t work. It heard everything but Yana including Johna and jono and Jane Ah … so I went to First and Second garage but then the First alias kept getting recognized as “1st garage” instead of “first garage” which made it of course not work. So I added another alias for “1st garage” and that finally worked. Why is it so hard? I know this isn’t an Ask Alexa thing but until Amazon figures out how people really talk it will never go truly viral. And I have a standard TV newscaster voice so I should be easy to understand.For whatever reason it recognized “second garage” and didn’t try to change it to 2nd garage. Go figure.

By the way, Ken’s Garage didn’t work either. It kept thinking I was saying “can garage” or kin garage. I set that one to My Garage which worked perfectly. So either My Garage or Second Garage both now work.