SmartThings Community

[RELEASE] Ask Alexa

(Micheal ) #4206

As you surmised, Ask Alexa, for the most part, is linked to SmartThings. However, you can be creative…if you have a proxy device (in SmartThings) that then can control OTHER things outside of SmartThings, you could do that. In addition, you can set up a macro to send a REST API to any other web device/site, so that is another way.

Do you have a specific use case/device you are looking at controlling?

(Mark) #4207

Ask Alexa stopped working this morning and all I get from Alexa when I issue a command is “There was a problem communicating with the requested skill.” General Alexa commands work fine.

When I look at the Alexa dashboard I see this: Unexpected Communication Issue
Ask Alexa - SmartThings Integration. Nothing shows up in ST live logging.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can begin troubleshooting the problem?

(Micheal ) #4208

Could your appID or you oauth token possibly have changed? If the app suddenly stops working that could indicate an outage at either SmartThings or Amazon.

I recommend running the Setup Variables and comparing the security items with your account.

PM me if none of this works …mine seems to working.

(Mark) #4209

It’s working again. SmartThings was working fine so it was likely an issue at Amazon.

(Micheal ) #4210

Very odd…looked here as well

And saw nothing.

(Joel W) #4211

I am having problems with Alexa in general, as well as SmartThings. I went to turn off a routine and she said Ok but didn’t do a thing, repeated the command same thing. I then went to the ST app and when I clicked on the device, I got the error having problems connecting try later.

(Micheal ) #4212

Always open a ticket with SmartThings when core pieces don’t work… including truncation of the logs… strangely enough when I posted the other day about this my account suddenly started working correctly…after 6 months of truncation of certain areas of my logs…could be coincidence, but that also tells me that people that still sees truncation that there is something"different" with their accounts.

(Joel W) #4213

Go to slack!

(Sat Pab) #4214

@MichaelS I have installed the Ask Alexa app and trying to figure out few things that I am confused about.

  1. Duplicate list_of_devices: In the items to interface with Alexa, I have some sensors that are duplicate in Temperature and Contact as they both report these attributes. Also my humidity and temp sensor is my thermostat. I did configure aliases for these. How do I can overcome this duplicate issue?

  2. I configured message queues (using only primary message queue). In the message notification Audio, I chose speakers (I have google home listed as speakers using Cast-Web API). When I ask alexa to play weather report or Status report on the devices, I see only Alexa playing the report but no report through Google home. But if I configure both speakers, speach synthesis device (same google home speakers since Cast-Web exposes both these capabilities for this device) I get the notification out of GH. But both Alexa and GH plays the report. Is this intentional? Or only the audio device should play the report but not Alexa?

Also how I can have the realtime notifications played through Ask Alexa? I see in the Wiki we can configure the speakers for realtime notifications but doesn’t really have much insights on how and where to do this. Any help would be awesome.

  1. Security: PIN control : I see the setting REquire PIN for Door/ Lock / SHM / Mode /Routine actions when i setup each device OR when I configure Room/Groups. Which would take precedence in this case? Assuming if I dont set this Require PIN at the ROOM / GROUP would the default setup in the devices configuration be kicked in or would it be bypassed?

  2. I also have Big Talker configured to announce notifications on events happening. Do Ask Alexa has the ability to play notifications on events that happen through the configured Speakers or speach synthesis devices?

  3. I have Echosistant also setup and having conflicts of Profile names equaling the Room / Groups. I guess this is an issue right? I have to rename those to make sure its unique for each app.


(Micheal ) #4215

@pottisatish Great questions…let’s see if we can get through these.

  1. I have multiple things that I call “living room” in my home (in the ST app), and many of these devices are multi function devices. So I have a dual strategy. I never need my motion sensor to report motion (only care about temperature), and I only care about the open close status of the same named device that is a door. So, I put the motion sensor in the correct area in Ask Alexa (temperature). However, since they have the same name, I simply add an alias for the door. So I can ask the status of the living room door and get the open/closed status, and ask about the living room and get the temperature. There are other ways of doing this. Honestly, in this case I would have a livingroom voice report, put all of the devices into that report (and they CAN have duplicates) and just call the single report. AA’s goal is to reduce the amount of talking to Alexa and instead get the information from her. However, this takes some forethought of how you will use AA to get it just right.

  2. The message queue is like a holding area. Alexa, as you know, can not wake up on its own to give you reports (yet) without a voice command. So the queue allows you to look into the ‘holding area’ to get the message. She will alert you the next time you speak to her that there are outstanding messages for you to listen to. However, the queue CAN alert to external synth speakers ON DEMAND. So a message comes in and it can immediately play on the speaker, or be stored in the queue, or both. It really depends on how you have it configured. Can you share your message queue setup? To answer your question more directly, BOTH (real time and holding) can be used at the same time, but it needs a specific setup to accomplish that. PM me for this as it can get confusing the first time.

  3. There is a ‘master switch’ in the settings…if that is off, no function needs a PIN. If it is on, then a hidden field appears in any security areas (doors, locks, rooms, macros, etc) that allows you to configure the NEED for the PIN on the basis of those functions. So you could have Doors needing a PIN, but not for locks. Very configurable.

  4. Big Talker is a ‘partner’ of Ask Alexa. So no…Ask Alexa by itself does not announce of events…only to react to voice commands. However you CAN have Big Talker send the messages to the message queue, which will be helpful if you aren’t around but need to know an event happen. This is the real power of the message queue as you can not only have real time notification, but also historical record of notifications.

  5. If the invocation name (the skill name) is the same, you will have to chose one or the other. The concepts between the two apps is slightly different that having both CAN be confusing. I have gone over the feature list of ES4.5 and outside of the intercom feature (which is built into Alexa now), almost every other function can be accomplished with Ask Alexa…however the WAY it is done is/could be very different. So that is the confusing part. I can help with what you want to accomplish, as that is the most important piece (IMO).

(Sat Pab) #4216


Thanks a bunch for the quick response. Really appreciate all your hard work and for such a great app that you contributed to the community. Here are my responses to your reply.

  1. Example, my ecobee is both humidity and temperature sensor. So in the devices config setup, i have to choose ecobee in both temp and humidity. But I did configure the aliases for it as ecobee temp, ecobee humidity. But when i generate the web page for Lambda setup, I see a notification saying that LIST_OF_DEVICES has duplicates. Also in the AA app, I see a warning message (You have the following devices used multiple times within AA.). How can I select the aliases in the Items to Interface to Alexa config page for devices? Or some where else?

  2. In the message queue setup under Message notification - Audio, I chose the speakers, Notification type - Verbal notification and message, Choose Voice - Salli, Prepend sound to verbal notification - Yes, Sound effect - Radio Announcer, Apply restrictions - Yes But I haven’t configured any restrictions. With this I dont receive any audio notification immediately (May be I dont have any message delivered to the queue until i ask for a weather report or report of my home). But once I have the message delivered to the queue, I should hear the sound through my speakers right? I will test this and confirm. Also, strangely choosing the speakers alone is delivered the message through GH but if I choose both speech synth and speakers I get the notification through the GH. Is there anyway I can debug (Live Logging) this?

  3. I enabled the master switch. It now has 2 places to setup need to ask for a PIN. 1. While you setup the devices (configure each device under each category in the main AA under items to interface with Alexa) 2. When you create Rooms/Groups. Wondering which would kickin the requirement? For example If i choose to have Require PIN for Door or Lock actions in 1st step and omit this setup in Room/Groups config, would it still ask for PIN or the Room/Group config will override the step 1 setup? Or Vice-Versa?

  4. That sounds like a plan. Yes definitely, I would love to know what happened in the past… This could be a heck of lot of messages (motion senor mainly that is watching outside, ha ha). Anyway that we can configure AA to Say : Motion events occurred on at time1, time2, time3 etc… instead of entire phrase every time?

  5. I have “Home” as invocation for Echosistant and Smart Things for AA. But I tried with a natural expression like - Alexa, turn on living or what windows are open in Living and it responded saying I have two livings and which one you are talking about? I didnt know how to answer that, :slight_smile: … Also if i configure continuation feedback (anything else?) and I say NO when it asks me this question, It doesn’t recognize a NO… Am i doing something wrong in saying a NO ?


(Micheal ) #4217

Some of these will require a longer discussion…I will PM you for specifics, but for the ‘short answers’:

  1. The way you set up Aliases is NOT intuitive as I would like, mostly because of the interface limitations. Here are the high level steps (and they are NOT intuitive as you’d think)
  • Enable Aliases (Settings)
  • Go to the Category of the device that you want to create aliases for (in your case, Environmental)
  • Choose the devices toward the BOTTOM that you want to create aliases for (in your case, the EcoBee)
  • Go to the main menu and then create the alias names. The list of available devices TO create aliases for is what you did in the step above

Again, NOT as intuitive because of the interface I have to work with, but does create a CLEAR list of aliases. This is probably an area where I will need to PM with you.

  1. I would turn off the restrictions. Again, the behavior is how ST defines restrictions is in play here: NO restrictions actually means restrictions all of the time. As for functionality, when a message is received you SHOULD receive a verbal or light ‘notification’ that a message was delivered. You can also have the notification and message come through the other speakers if you so choose.

Again, a PM with some screen shots from me could help with this

  1. Ah…I understand…so the devices you choose in the main menu DO NOT carry over to the room. So you can have the room without a PIN, and the device with a PIN. Or both, or neither. You will never encounter a time where you will need two PINs.

  2. Yes…and we thought of that (multiple message). The Big Talker app has the ability to delete the other messages so only the LAST message (say, a door opening) can be listed. Of course, you can also have every instance of the door opening listed, but that would be a LONG message. I actually go into this in the developer’s notes here:

  3. Yes…you have to choose one or the other, or change the invocation of ES to something else. Both are the skill names and will conflict.

As for your question about “No”, I would look in the Amazon app to see if she hears you correctly…but she has to hear it:

And again, you have to get rid of the conflicting names or none of this works.

Another key to this whole natural language stuff is NOT to be too wordy…Amazon recommends keeping the language commands short to keep recognition high. This device, at the end of the day, can only hear words, but not meaning. However, AA uses the utterances to really get it to feel like natural language. If something doesn’t work as you’d expect, you can make a change that allows her to understand your syntax WITHOUT having to recode the app. There are over 1000 different utterances there now, but if you have syntax that feels more natural to you, let me know…I can easily show you how to add that. If it works, SHARE IT…this will only make Ask Alexa better.

Thanks for your kind words about the app!

(Micheal ) #4218

Welcome to another Friday update. I am rather pleased about the feedback I received from the last release of Ask Alexa. Looking at my website stats, this is the BIGGEST volume of installs in a while, with 100 unique new users per day either upgrading or installing the software. While we did have some minor issues at the beginning, none of them were earth shattering and people have been sending me a lot of nice compliments about this new version, specifically the ability to identify the speaker you are talking to. Be sure you have the latest IDE code (2.3.9c for Ask Alexa and 1.0.4a of the Rooms/Groups Extension ). Now, watch this:

Pretty much what I showed last time? Not so much….notice I don’t have any visible invocation. Well, actually, I do…it is the word ‘here’…but now that you have the ability to identify where ‘here’ is, you can do some fun stuff. VERY smooth and natural syntax! And the same commands will give you unique actions for every room!

The latest version of Ask Alexa has the functionality built in to do the above, but it is ONLY for advanced users at this point as it requires you to build yet another set of skills called “here”, “room”, “group” (if you want all of those names available). I am really waiting for the next few versions of Ask Alexa where we will be creating an auto deploy function as that is the ‘future’ of getting skills installed…especially since I spend a good amount of time revising the documentation as Amazon just LOVES changing their developer and AWS consoles. However, if you demand it, I will release a version that allows you to set this functionality up manually.

Anyway, along with the feedback about Ask Alexa this week, I have received a lot of questions about my ‘opinions’ about other things SmartThings and beyond. I appreciate that people care what my opinion is, but not 100% sure WHY it matters what I think :slight_smile: However, since these questions are rather consistent, I thought I would answer them publicly:

Q: What do you think about Hubitat?
A: Just like a lot of you, I am looking at it…sometimes MORE when SmartThings goes down, so a LOT lately :). I have spoken to Bruce over there, along with some other employees/owners. In addition, I have joined their forum and I am actively looking at them for a condo vacation home I just purchased. I have 100+ devices in my primary house and not sure I would gain a benefit and I wouldn’t be able to add all of my devices. I believe Hubitat is on the right path, but so is SmartThings! As a developer, I am going to get more installs and visibility via SmartThings than Hubitat. I really recommend you read this posting from @tgauchat over in his ActionTiles forum…his views match mine about Hubitat:

Q: Is running in the cloud the right thing to do for SmartThings (Or Is local where it is at)?
A: This is less about SmartThings and more about what YOU expect from your system. Remember, SmartThings’ service is FREE…we bought the hub and they actually have NO obligation to provide any service level or uptime. There is, of course, an expectation, but not by the letter of any contract you or they signed. Quite honestly, my system has been rather stable for a couple years and my expectations are rather modest considering I pay nothing for the service. Hubitat, at first, talked about premium service. I actually think that is a great idea!!! It would then be a contract for what you pay vs what you can expect. But they have since pulled back that thought, which is ‘strange’ from my business mind in that you will at some point have market saturation and then how do you make money? Samsung can have a loss leader; start ups really can’t for very long without an income model.

Q: With one of the developers from Echosistant being back are you still going to integrate the features from their apps.
A: Not sure why this keeps getting asked. Jason has already stated he is not longer developing Echosistant ([DEPRECATED] Ask Alexa 2.3.8), and the development of the NEW version (v5) was transferred to Tony a while back, and he is the one who I am partnering with. As such, we are continue to find areas where Ask Alexa can improve. So, basically we are still on the same plan. One thing I do know is that many of the new installs this last week were folks that were transitioning from Echosistant and they are enjoying it!

Q: Amazon last week released a new ‘brief’ feature allowing very little feedback after an action. Can this be integrated into Ask Alexa.
A: Ok….done….about a year ago:
Literally…this was something that I have had in my app for a LONG time. If there is one fault of Ask Alexa it is that it is feature rich. If there is something you think it should do, just let me know. About half the time the ability is already in there.

Q: What is the future of Ask Alexa
A: I get the feeling there a few things being asked in this question. First…no…I have no plans to jump ship or to stop support for Ask Alexa. As mentioned above, Hubitat is interesting technology. However, if I wanted local execution and control I would take some of the numerous Raspberry PIs I have and do something open source. The technology around home automation is rather mature (zwave/zigbee)…it is the SOFTWARE that really makes the system work. And SmartThings is 3-4 years ahead of Hubitat. That is NOT to say that another system can’t take over, and Hubitat looks like a worthy contender!

The other part of this question really comes down to where I see the roadmap for Ask Alexa. Tony and I have already started conceptualizing the next version BIG version of Ask Alexa. It will probably be more web based, and use the latest technology like the new SmartThings APIs.

For the current version (2.x.x branch), I will continue to tweak it, adding features that improve its overall operation based on community feedback. However, my hope has always been that Amazon’s CORE software would do everything that I need it to. Right now, I see NOTHING on Amazon’s roadmap for the level of reporting that Ask Alexa gives you, and if you are deep into WebCore, nothing out there will give you the flexibility to trigger your pistons like Ask Alexa. Finally, Ask Alexa will always COMPLIMENT Amazon with their features. When notifications come out, that opens a lot of new items I can add to better integrate the other apps out there (like Big Talker) into your Ask Alexa eco system (slight pun intended). Either way, I expect the next year to be BIG for Ask Alexa.

(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #4219

Great job @MichaelS. I look forward to seeing the auto deploy on Ask Alexa. It really does improve the Alexa experience for the user.

I will confirm, yes, active development on EchoSistant is not occurring by me. I will continue to answer questions and offer assistance to any users, but I am not planning to deploy any future versions at this time.

But, on that note, @MichaelS, I do have some unseen features in my personal version that would go very nicely in AA. Let me know if you’re interested.

(Greg) #4220

The video is unavailable?

(Micheal ) #4221

How about now for the video?

(Greg) #4222

works! 1234

(Joel W) #4223

By the way Michael, Ask Alexa has become a central part of my communicating with my home. So thanks again.

(Micheal ) #4224

Thanks. That means a lot to me!

(Franklin) #4225

That is the thing that keeps me from jumping to Hubitat…how long will they be in business? That and Ask Alexa isn’t on Hubitat :sunglasses: