[NO LONGER SUPPORTED] Ask Alexa

I suppose the fact that a tone (or noise of some sort) gets closer to the solution I’d like to see - basically as long as it grabs my attention. I think the eventual problem I can see with this approach is that there are notifications which I occasionally want to catch up (news, scores, emails, …) on and others that I absolutely need to respond to immediately (garage door left open, reminders). If these are lumped together I suppose I’ll forgo the first category.

The Echo-as-bluetooth-speaker-sink solution (in my case, via Raspberry Pi) worked well with periodic repeating notifications (15 mins) but bluetooth is notoriously flakey and I’ve had nothing but trouble keeping the connection stable and working in Raspbian.

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Sorry – I didn’t see what about that link wasn’t public or not released. I even tried to navigate to it from the developer documentation, under AVS. It looked like it was in production.

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Oh…sorry for a confusing set of terminology. The AVS is NOT a skill like Ask Alexa…it is the service Amazon markets to other device developers to allow Alexa integration to those devices.

Regarding the custom skill, which Ask Alexa is, THAT interface would have to have a switch allowing the app to ask permissions from the user to allow notifications. Then, in the AWS/Lambda code you could then send a push to that API to get the device to flash/tone. Unfortunately, the Developer/Custom Skill piece is not yet active to the majority of developers…yet.

Welcome to another Friday! For those Seahawks fans, let’s wish them luck this Sunday against the Texans! I was in Seattle earlier this week to meet with Amazon (more on that below), and I am going to go back on Sunday for the game. Go Hawks!

Regarding my Amazon visit, that has an interesting history. Back in February 2016 I got a call from Amazon based on they hearing about Ask Alexa. I interviewed for a Alexa Evangelist position. It became readily apparent part way through the interview they wanted me to travel extensively in this position. That was a killer for me. In addition, while it wasn’t the major point of me declining to work for them, I felt if I took the job I would have to abandon Ask Alexa and the community. Anyway, fast forward to last week and I got another call from the Alexa Evangelist for the Smart Home division. Once again, the conversation started with “Hey, we have heard some wonderful things about your Ask Alexa skill and….” so I went to Seattle to talk to them!
IMG_20171025_105201!

Anyway, the meeting went well (I love the fact you can bring your dogs to work with you!).

IMG_20171025_110257

They asked me a LOT of questions about my app, including the user experience I have created (they seemed REALLY interested in my macros/extensions concept…particularly the Rooms/Groups extension). The good news, and I have to be vague, is that skills like mine and others may not be needed in a year…Much of the functionality will be built in! While most people think I would be upset about this, I am more about the end user experience…if Amazon can bake some of the functionality into the native functions, then that allows me to focus on the items that are NOT in there. Compound commands, for example, are not yet supported and may not be in the short term as Amazon is focusing on ‘macros’ of things that happen when one command is given (similar to how Ask Alexa has been since the beginning). Another area where no other app can match is the reporting abilities…While the main Alexa app is (or will be) polling the devices natively you can get status, but it will be difficult to get anything like the custom reporting available in Ask Alexa.

Bottom line, this visit to my old stomping grounds of Seattle was fun. Amazon may continue to consult with me as, and I quote “You have done things with your skill and integration that we didn’t even know was possible or needed”. High praise indeed.

Finally, regarding the next version, I have the compound commands working rather nice, along with some nice little updates to a number of the extensions. One item I DID reconsider was removing the speaker control functionality. I am going to keep that in, simply removing the Sonos specific memory slots that never worked well to begin with. I estimate I will be releasing the app in November and then step back and look at the landscape before I make the next major change…bringing up the Ask-Alexa.com web site! While it will NOT be like WebCoRE (yet), it will allow me to host custom scripts that will make setup of Ask Alexa MUCH easier for a new user (and those that upgrade). Since this is an external site that I control, it will give a more custom experience that only SmartThings setups can’t give you. More to come….

Update Well that was quick…Amazon just enabled Routines within its app (I was told it was going to happen, just not this soon. See here: Alexa Routines - Live at last (two years in the making)). Anyway, I can now reveal that Ask Alexa will support this functionality in the next release as well. It will have similar functionality to my Alexa Helper App from yesteryear (see http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Alexa_Helper). This app is still valid and was one of the most downloaded apps before Ask Alexa. Ask Alexa will have similar functionality allowing you to create a virtual switch that will then kick off Ask Alexa macros. Because of the way this works, voice reports can NOT be utilized; however, complex functions CAN be used…for example, I use this functionality to simply tell Alexa “Good Night” and she locks the doors, turns off the lights, and depending on the day of the week sets a specific home mode so they alarms work properly (Weekday or weekend).

Good work Amazon! And thanks for letting me know when we talked :blush: This app can also be used to FINALLY utilize Alexa as a taking alarm clock, replacing the talking alarm clock in my home as well (http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Talking_Alarm_Clock)

Enjoy!

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As usual I will be looking forward to you next version. I am glad you received the recognition you deserve from Amazon. It is people like you that make these companies better. Just adding functions isn’t good enough, but adding a great user experience is what you did. As always i am ready to help, just let me know.

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For those using the Alexa routines please check this out.

Ask Alexa will support switch activation of macros/extensions in the next next release.

Can’t wait more toys.

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Hello this is my first post and I had a questions that I couldn’t find an answer to. I have been trying to set a pin when arming or disarming my system but i can’t seem to figure it out. Can anybody please advise On how to do that. I have already completed setting up the password and included a pin on the ask alexa app but whenever I say “Alexa ask smartthings security disarm” it will go ahead and disarm the system instead of asking me for the password and avoid disarming the alarm. If this is working as expected then this is a huge hole as anybody could disarm your system at any time. Thanks in advance for any help on this.

There are two areas required for security…setting up the pin then under Mode/SHM/Routines you must turn on the use of the PIN on the specific function. This was put in as a PIN shouldn’t be enabled forced to be used for all items. Just the ones you want.

Let me know if that works for you.

For anyone that saw the schedules code change color in your IDE, I have updated it to B revision. Simply misspelling, but putting it out there just for those curious on why the color changed :smiley:

Well, thanks to Amazon I will be releasing a version of Ask Alexa this Friday that will implement virtual switch control over macros. This basically allows Ask Alexa to be equivalent to Alexa Helper, which is actually getting to be more relevant with Amazon releasing its Routines addition.

Don’t worry…Ask Alexa is still here and continues to evolve for those power users that don’t mind invocation words; I am just attempting to bridge a gap that is now solvable with routines.

Because of this change I will move the compound commands to the next release as those require a LOT more utterances and I hate releasing apps that are half baked.

Look forward to Friday!

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Michael, do I overwrite the test version I have? Also never got the Slack request. Thanks.

Yes…when Friday rolls around you will overwrite the version you have.

You should see the invite today.

Thank you got the invite.

Sneak preview of how I have been using the new version of Ask Alexa and the routines. Basically, depending on the day of the week I set a mode so the house knows if it needs to wake me up in the morning or allow me to sleep in. Before I would say “Alexa, tell SmartThings GoodNight” to do this. Now it is simple “Alexa, Good Night”.

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Good_Night_Weekdays.2FWeekends_.28Native.2C_Non-Invocation.29

At this time I have a Routine in Alexa called Security which activates a momentary button in SmartThings. This button controls a WebCoRe Piston which has a number of lights in it. I also have a room in Ask Alexa called security with the same lights in it. How would I convert this to your second method and not use the WebCoRe Piston? Of course using the new app when released? I looked at the WiKi and got a little confused.

Quite honestly, you may not need to change a thing; I am not attempting to position Ask Alexa like WebCoRE. If you didn’t have WebCoRE I would say you would create a macro with the switches you want to turn on and simply trigger that using the virtual switch. However, unless your objective is to eliminate the need for WebCoRE, I would say if it works, keep it!

The main objective of the next app is to allow you to use the routines to possibly run items more efficiently using the native tools. However, you will NEVER get the power of Ask Alexa with the native tools directly…especially the reporting. However, for me, the “Ask SmartThings” invocation sometimes got in the way of accomplishing some simple stuff…Using the example from the wiki I can now shutdown my house at night and still have the convenience of having the mode set based on the current day.

Hope that all makes sense.

OK I don’t want to use WebCoRe so I created a Macro, but how do I point it to the virtual switch?

You can’t…sorry I wasn’t clear but THAT is the functionality that comes Friday…I tend to write my documentation before I release something :smiley:

Sorry Michael, you were clear, but I tend to ask my questions early. I like to plan.