[DEPRECATED] Ask Alexa 2.3.1

Version 2.3.1 of Ask Alexa

I am pleased to announce the 2.3.1 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…simple the main app, the message queue and new code for the Rooms/Groups extension! I call this a ‘scenario 1’ update…meaning it just requires a IDE code update/installation. Please see http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Frequently_Asked_Questions_.28FAQs.29 for more information on how to update.

For first time installation, please see here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa

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.
  • Code Optimization - Always finding better ways to do things in a shorter about of code.
  • Voice Selection For Message Queue - SmartThings finally changed services for their TTS service to Amazon Poly, and Ask Alexa is utilizing it! Now choose from over 10 different voice (English for now) for use with the message queues. Please note this ONLY changes the output coming from SmartThings connected speakers (i.e. Sonos, etc). NOT the Alexa
  • Room/Group Extension - Replacing the device group macro from the early days of the app, the new Room/Group extension expands of the concept of “activity context” instead of “device type context”. Whereas you could only designate groups of similar devices (switches, dimmers, locks, doors, etc), you now just put them all into a group (or if you prefer, the concept of a ‘room’) and simply tell the room what you want to do?
    Want to turn off the lights in the room? “Alexa, tell SmartThings to turn off {room name}”
    Set all of the dimmers in that room to 40%? “Alexa, tell SmartThings to set {room name} to 40%”.
    How about turning them blue and 30%? “Alexa, tell SmartThings to set {room name} to blue and 30%”.
    Want to lock up the downstairs (maybe you have multiple locks)? “Alexa, tell SmartThings to lock {room name}”
    The other important item here is when you query the room. Before you might have to create a multiple device groups and custom voice reports for each room. Now simply ask about the room itself and it will give you a summary based on how you have it set up. More importantly, if you have multiple temperature or humidity devices in a room, it will average all similar devices together and give you a single reading of temperature or humidity in that room.
    What this extension CAN’T do (yet) is control individual devices within the room. This would require me to modify the Lambda code and the developer slots to add additional objects to the commands. That will be in the future; however, I wanted to get this out there now and then continue development in that direction. So, in the future you might say “Alexa, tell SmartThings to turn off main light in the {room name}” Previously, you would have had to set up multiple skills to get this level of control and reporting with Alexa…Now it can be done with one skill (your MAIN skill), allowing global control of your whole house, and granular control (in the future) of the rooms in your house along with concise reporting from the room.

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


For those planning to install this, please note that on 9/29 this app will be updated to 2.3.2. This will deprecate this version. If this is a new install for you, I recommend waiting until then to install.

For those that will be upgrading from a PREVIOUS version, please ensure you record and remove your OLD DEVICE GROUP MACROS as the new version will orphan them in lieu of the new Rooms/Groups extension.


EDIT: I have released the new version: