BREAKING NEWS AUGUST 21
Official Echo integration is here! And it works great! Please see the new FAQ devoted just to the official SmartThings/Echo integration:
And below is the original FAQ showing the various kinds of integration available before the Official version was available. But unless you’re running your own server and want to hack a bunch of stuff, just look at the official one, it’s fantastic.
I am quadriparetic, so voice control is very important to me. And I am amazed at the quality of the Amazon Echo farfield voice recognition technology. So I’ve been keeping a close eye on the current state of unofficial integration.
I got mine for $99 through the invitation process. It was a several month wait and you needed to be a prime member. It is now available to anyone to order, but at almost double the price. Mine is not a beta product at all in terms of quality and performance. It’s just that not all the features are turned on yet. They keep adding some every month. I’ve been really happy with it.
There’s no direct smartthings integration with it yet. I know there are some people working on that, so my own expectation is that We should start to see some over the next few months.
Meanwhile, people are using several different methods.
- echo has an IFTTT channel. Originally it was limited to “I put something on the shopping list” or “I took something off the shopping list” and a few other things like asking a sports team’s schedule (any team, not a specific one). Since smartthings also has a IFTTT channel, it’s obviously possible to have putting something on the shopping list trigger something in SmartThings, but then you can’t use the shopping list for anything else.
Amazon continues to expand this functionality. In early July, they added the timer and alarm to IFTTT. Since I don’t use the Echo timer, and it can be set as low as 5 seconds, I am now using this as a SmartThings controller for one activity. Still clunky, but has possibilities.
- both echo and smartthings can be paired to the same Phillips hue bridge. No conflict. So it’s possible to have echo voice control a bulb that is controlled by that bridge, and then have a SmartThings hello home action or other devices or custom code subscribe to the events of that bulb and do things on that basis. This is what I’m using most. The $15 GE Link bulbs also work as long as they’re controlled through the bridge.
The negative is that there is a lag between the time the Phillips bridge does something with the bulb and smartthings picks up on that. This appears to be a limitation of the smartthings integration, other Apps don’t have the lag. At my house the lag is about five minutes, but some people have said it’s longer for them.
So it all depends on the use case. For example, The lag doesn’t bother me at all for my good night phrase.
So it comes down to what you are going to use it for. This is obviously only an interim solution, but as you know I am very dependent on voice so I’m quite happy to have this as an additional option now.
Also, this has broken several times since I set it up when SmartThings changed their polling. I’m told improvements in the ST/Hue interface are being worked on, which would certainly help.
@csh1290 has pointed out that the “man in the middle” protocol can also be done with a WeMo switch, and reports near instaneous execution. The WeMo switch will cost about $45, but just as with option 2) you could trigger multiple ST actions with it, and if there’s no lag it will fit a lot more use cases.
the Philips Hue developer license says you must not use the hue emulator software to simulate a hue bulb as a cover for a non approved device. However, some people have released code based on exactly that. They run the emulator 24/7 on a cheap computer like a Raspberry Pi and tricking Echo into thinking all the devices are Hue bulbs.
I haven’t done that because I’m in an accessible technology group that advises on use cases for quads, and we are covered by the same kind of developer agreement as a lot of beta testers even though we’re not actually beta testing. But there are some people in the ST community who are not themselves bound by the Philips license who got the code off the internet and are using it with varying results.
My expectation is that Philips/Amazon will shut down that option eventually, but you will see a lot of discussion of it.
There are probably some other options as well, a lot of people would really like to see this functionality.
The good news is we’re so early in the Echo cycle that I’m sure there will be many more official Home Automation choices available soon.
For more technical information on how ST community members are using Echo through custom code interfaces, see:
There is also an additional Echo topic in the forums for broader topics like security and Echo, why the awake word is Alexa, integration with other systems, pricing, use cases, etc:
For general information on other voice control options including UBI, Ivee, SharpTools for Android and Will Poirier’s Siri texting method, see: