I don’t like hunting through multiple apps to turn off a light in my house. Therefore, I’ve been trying to get everything centralized in the Wink app. When it comes to managing Philips Hue lights, the Wink can turn them on and off, as well as change the percentage that a bulb is lit, acting as a dimmer. Philips Hue lights run through a bridge, known as the Hue Bridge. This device bridges the Wi-fi network and allows the Philips Hue app to control your lights. Once your Hue lights are configured, open the Wink app and tap on Add a Product. At the Add a Product screen, tap on Lights. At the Lights screen, tap on Hue Lights. At the Philips Lights screen, tap on Next. At the next screen, tap on Sign In. At the Link Account screen, enter the email address and password and then tap on Log in. At the Welcome screen, tap on Yes. At the next screen, tap on Connect Now Tap on the only button on the Hue Bridge. Once the Wink app can communicate with the Hue bridge, tap on the Done button. The lights that are running through your Hue Bridge will then be displayed in the Lights screen. You can organize your lights into Groups. For example, if you have multiple bulbs in a single room, you might choose to group them together. To do so, tap on New Group. Provide a name for your new group and check the box for each light to add to the group. The app has then been setup and you can control your lights.
One of my favorite options in the latest round of home automationry is the ability to voice control all the things. The Wink has a pretty substantial list of supported home automation devices. The Alexa can control the Wink. Therefore, the Alexa can do all the things, even though integrations with Alexa were not built for most of those devices by Amazon. The beauty here lies in the ubiquity of APIs these days. Alexa has a recipe-style option called a Skill (further humanizing her). Basically, you add the Wink skill, then scan for devices that are connected through the Wink, then viola, tell Alexa to do something to them. To get started, open the Alexa app and tap on Skills. Search for Wink and then tap on Enable. At the Wink screen, enter the username and password for your Wink account and then tap on Sign In. Provided all goes well, you’ll then be told that Alexa linked with Wink (there’s a joke there… anyone?). Alexa doesn’t know about your devices that are connected through Wink yet. So now tap on Discover Devices. The app then shows all the devices connected. Mine will have about 20, but I’ve only got two setup for now. From the Wink app, let’s add another device. Then let’s tap Discover Devices again from the Alexa app. Any new devices are then displayed. Different devices have different voice commands. For example, a thermostat can change the temperature whereas a light switch can turn on and off, a dimmer can be set to a certain percentage of power, or a garage door opener can open a garage door. Now, if I can only find the dip-switch controlled coffee pot and hook it up to an automated receptacle so Alexa can make me a cup of coffee…
The Amazon Echo can’t control a FireTV. I guess they’re different groups at Amazon. And not all the music you want is available on Amazon Prime. Royalties, contracts, etc being what they are, sometimes Amazon can’t find something you want. But, even if an artist or song isn’t available, you can often hook into a channel that fills the void on iHeartRadio. So, let’s connect the two. To get started, you’ll want to log into http://alexa.amazon.com. Then, click on Music & Books and then scroll down to the listing for iHeartRadio and click on the logo. If you haven’t linked an account, you’ll only have the option to “Link your account now” so click there. When prompted either enter your username and password, or, if you initially setup your account with Facebook or Goolge, click on those. No matter which account you select, you’ll be prompted to give access to Alexa for your account. Click Okay, or OK, according to the system. If using Google or Facebook, you’ll also be asked if you want iHeartRadio to be able to post on your behalf. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, tell Alexa to play some Paula Abdul. That’s not available in Prime Music, so you’ll default over to an iHeartRadio station. Enjoy! The
Domino’s is arguably not the best pizza in the world. But it’s pizza. And, if you have an Amazon Echo, you can order it without opening an app, touching a keyboard, or making a phone call. This makes for a great look at using one of the skills options in Alexa to extend the usefulness of an Echo. To do so, you’ll first setup a Domino’s account (aka Pizza Profile). Do that at Dominos.com (avoiding any conflicts with the Noid along the way). Also setup an Easy Order, which is the kind of pizza that Alexa will order each time you tell her to do so. Once done, you’ll need to enable the Domino’s skill. To enable the Domino’s skill. A skill is an extension of an Echo. Think of it like an App Store on an iPhone. In this example, I’ll use my desktop to enable the skill, but the process is the same when run using the Alexa app. First, open the web interface at http://alexa.amazon.com. Then, click on Skills in the sidebar along the left side of the screen and click on Enable. You’ll then be prompted to provide a username and password for your Domino’s profile. Enter that and then click on Link My Pizza Profile. After a brief moment, Alexa will tell you that the skill was successfully linked. Close this window. Now, you’ll see that the skill has been enabled and can easily be disabled if you decide that there’s better pizza to be had by clicking on the Disable button. Now, just say “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order” and then as your tummy grumbles, simply say “Alexa, ask Domino’s to track my order” to check the status.
Do you have a Premium Spotify account? Before you start this, please note that only Premium Spotify accounts can be linked to Amazon Echo. To link your Spotify account to an Amazon Echo, first open http://alexa.amazon.com and then click on Music & Books. Then, click on Spotify under the Music section. When prompted, click on “Link your account” Click Log In To Spotify (unless you don’t have an account, then click “Sign up for Spotify” to setup an account) I use my Facebook account for Spotify, so I’ll click “Log in with Facebook” Then, grant access when prompted. Now, you can say “Alexa, play Halloween mix on Spotify” and you’ll hear this (or I will):
IFTTT makes the possibilities practically endless for what you can do with an Amazon Echo running Alexa. IFTTT provides workflows that connect Alexa to many of the most popular cloud services on the Internet. For example, Alexa can make a spreadsheet of all the songs you listen to using your Prime account, Email you a shopping list, sync To-Dos to Evernote, find your phone, set reminders on your phone, extend Alexa to manage your TV using Harmony, run Wink shortcuts, print files, manage a Wemo bulb (Belkin), control otherwise unsupported thermostats, control items within apps (e.g. make all your Hue lights a given color), time things (e.g. turn on the air conditioning for an hour), lock a door using an otherwise unsupported lock (e.g. with a Smarthings), do random things (e.g. assign a random color to a Hue light), interface with Google Calendar, and so much more. Basically, if a service can interact with IFTTT using an API, then your Alexa can be made to talk to it. But first, let’s connect your Amazon Echo to IFTTT. To get started, first go to the Alexa channel on IFTTT at Amazon Alexa Channel on IFTTT. When the page loads, click Connect. You’ll then be prompted to sign into IFTTT using your Amazon account. Enter your username and password and then click “Sign in using our secure server”. You’ll then be prompted to trust IFTTT from Amazon. Click Okay. Then you’ll be able to setup recipes. Let’s say you’d like to put your shopping list on a Slack channel so you can be judged even more harshly than you already are… Enjoy.
One of those fun things that Alexa can do is set alarms for you. I usually sleep around 4 or 5 hours a night, so no amount of alarms is enough to roust me out of bed. Therefore, adding Alexa on my Amazon Echo to the extensive list of alarms I have around my house is welcome. Let’s look at some things you can tell Alexa to do for ya’, when it comes to alarms. First, let’s set an alarm for noon:
“Alexa, set an alarm for noon tomorrow.”Alexa will then repeat back the alarm she just configured. Now, let’s setup a repeating alarm for every Tuesday morning at 6am:
“Alexa, set an alarm for every Tuesday at 6am.”Now, let’s check a list of all the alarms running on your Amazon Echo account:
“Alexa, list my alarms.”If an alarm for tomorrow is at 11am, we can then delete it using:
“Alexa, delete the 11am alarm for tomorrow”To snooze an alarm, just say:
“Snooze”You can also ask about what alarms you have for a given day. So that alarm we set for Tuesday…
“What alarms do I have for Tuesday?”Or to ask about which ones that repeat:
“What repeating alarms do I have?”Alexa then lists your repeating alarms. To delete an alarm, change the sound, or set the volume, use either the Alexa app or use http://alexa.amazon.com and click on Timers & Alarms. Then click on “Manage alarm volume and default sound”. Let’s say we wanted to explore alarms. click on Alarm and then (as seen) click on the alarm you’d like to hear a sample. You can also configure timers. So if you’re cooking some salmon, you might say:
“Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes”You can also use the web interface or app to pause, cancel, or stop timers.
The Amazon Echo is a great device for accessing content using a Prime membership. But the Echo is also useful for media that isn’t sourced from Prime. One of these is Audible, which makes sense, given that Audible is owned by Amazon. I found that my Audible account was around before it was linked to an Amazon account with Prime. In order to link the account, I needed to open the Alexa website and link my Audible account. To do so, open http://alexa.amazon.com. Then click on Music & Books in the sidebar. Then click on Audible and either you will see your Audible books, or you will be able to provide an Audible username and password. Once authenticated, you’ll see a list of books from your Audible account. Now, it’s as easy as telling Alexa to start playing the book. In this example, e’ll say “Alexa, play Startup CEO from Audible.” Viola, the book begins. Enjoy.
There are a number of services that rank web sites. I find that I check alexa.com here and there. So as you employ various techniques to make your site better, you can check back and see the long term impacts of how these efforts impact your ranking. You can also see demographics of visitors. And you can see geographic data as well. There are other better sites, with far more detailed information such as Google Analytics. But a very top-level, upper level view of how your site is performing is something like Alexa.com. Nice and simple.