Barbs Connected World

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Taking Alexa with me everywhere using Lexi

 

Just yesterday I was away from home and thinking I needed to add a few things to my Alexa powered shopping list and wishing there was an easy way to do this without typing into the Alexa App on my iPhone or using a web browser on my tablet. And I’ve often cursed out Siri for not turning on lights when I’ve summoned her to action this  from a distance using HomeKit via my Apple TV.

Today I discovered Lexi –a $5 iOS app that changed everything. Press and hold the button, watch the animation, add items to my shopping list, turn lights on or off. This is Alexa “on the road”, giving me control of my Connected Home when I’m miles away from home.

lexi

If you are on the fence about buying an Amazon Echo, you can use this App to try out many of the features of Alexa, as this app will handle shopping lists, queries and many of the Alexa Skills. (But not Amazon Music). And I truly think every home should be Alexa powered.

The open Alexa ecosystem (and it really is an ecosystem) makes the Amazon Echo a really compelling Smart Home controller and virtual assistant. I’m continually amazed and pleased by how developers, like the Lexi team, are extending the Alexa experience and making my life so easy (and fun).

Alexa, change colors on my Hue stuff (thanks Yonomi)

 

I love my Alexa enabled Connected Home and I love the Yonomi App. Amazon’s Echo Smart Home covers an amazing number of products and gets better all the time. One of the missing ingredients for my needs was the ability to change the colors on my Hue bulbs and Lightstrips. Alexa handles turning these on and off and dimming the bulbs, but color changes are not currently in her repertoire. IFTTT can handle single bulbs and Lightstrips and can change colors on a single light or Lightstrip or can change ALL of them at once, but not “scenes” or “routines” (two Lightstrips, or two Blooms, etc.); it’s all lights or just one of them. Once again, Yonomi comes to the rescue, and Alexa can now color my world and set my Hue devices to predefined (or even random) colors.

Most of my Hue gear is configured in pairs or threesomes. I don’t ever seem to turn on all my Hue lights (which are spread over the three floors of my Condo). It’s almost always one room at a time, and every so often, one floor at a time.

Here’s my kitchen, decked out with two sets of Hue Lightstrips showing two of my colored moods (scenes/routines) Kitchen Yellow and Kitchen Blue:

kitchen

 

Apple’s Siri, with scenes, allows me to tell Siri to turn on Kitchen Blue or Kitchen Yellow, but Alexa doesn’t support colors for Hue and IFTTT doesn’t support scenes or routines. Alexa is far more dependable than Siri (like 99.9%) and I was able to solve this last piece of my Connected Home with Yonomi.

First, inside the Yonomi App, I linked to my Hue Bridge. Then, I created two (for starters) Yonomi routines. I created Kitchen Blue and Kitchen Yellow. I turn each of the two Lightstrips on to 100% using Actions and set the color to Blue (or Yellow). There are lots of other options, including dimming, fading, random colors, but these are the two I wanted to start with. Once these were done, I open the Echo web app and ran discovery so that these two new routines were discovered and added to my device list.

Now I can tell Alexa to “turn on Kitchen Blue” or “turn on Kitchen Yellow”. It takes a few seconds, but the lights cooperate. I can turn both off by telling Alexa to “turn off the Kitchen” as this command IS covered using Alexa groups natively.

blueyellow

 

So, I find myself saying thank you again to the folks at Yonomi App for giving me the ability to fully control my Hue colored bulbs and Lightstrips.

Yonomi, LifX, Alexa and Routines (Scenes)

 

I recently discovered the Yonomi App which was the result of a narrow quest to enable voice control for my Sonos stations using Alexa. The Connected Home landscape is still filled with detours and roadblocks, but Amazon’s Alexa (Echo) is what Siri should have been and there is support for far more devices and vendors on the Alexa platform. With the Alexa Skills for developers, the platform is open and growing.

The best of the bunch of existing Alexa Skills is Yonomi. That was my opinion even before the nice folks at Yonomi sent me a LifX 1000 color bulb and a Vita Copenhagen EOS mini feather lamp to add to my connected home. I’ve got some Hue bulbs, lightstrips and Hue Blooms, and I was already enamored of what color does in my home. To me, it is “internal landscaping with light”, but also very functional. Unlike Hue, which needs a hub, LifX is Wi-Fi (and cloud) based. LifX app setup is a little quirky as you need to go and reset your password as no password is configured at all when you set up your light(s), which I see as a huge flaw. Most consumers won’t figure this out as resetting a non-existent password isn’t exactly logicial. But, all in all, my LifX color bulb nestled in my new feather lamp in the guest bedroom is a nice addition to my connected home.

small lifx whitelifx pink

LifX has a nice iOS app, an Android app (that I have no experience with) and wonder of wonders, a Windows App. LifX is possibly alone in official support of the Windows Platform. Insteon made an initial attempt to support the platform, but has seemingly abandoned it, as their Windows App broke around October 2015 and has not been fixed, nor has it been updated with the new functionality available to iOS and Android. Hue has done nothing for Windows users and their iOS app is not very robust. Lutron has done nothing for Windows users. So a shoutout to LifX for being an equal opportunity developer.

windows app

 

I’ve recently added an Echo Dot to my connected home and it resides on my nightstand connected to my first generation Bose Wave/PC radio. Alexa can hear me in the Master Bedroom, the Guestroom. and my Home Office in the Loft above the bedroom. Perfect. Running Smarthome discovery again in the Echo app got my new Feather Lamp discovered immediately. Alexa controls this beautifully including dimming and color changes. The official commands are listed at http://www.lifx.com/pages/alexa – and I customized what I need for my new Feather lamp.

I love my new LifX bulb. Wish I could afford a few more…

Loving the Yonomi App

The Connected Home isn’t about single devices. It’s about getting disparate devices from a variety of vendors to play nice together and create scenes that include mutliple vendors. Alexa has groups, but they don’t handle everything, especially fine control of my Sonos speakers. And here is where Yonomi shines. Yonomi has a long (and growing) list of supported devices. (I’d love to see Yonomi add Insteon and Lutron Caseta hubs to the mix – this would cover everything I currently have in my connected home.)

Yonomi allows you to create both time and geofencing based “routines” (many vendors call these scenes). You can create these and use them from the Yonomi App AND run device discovery in the Amazon Echo app to allow voice control via Alexa for these same routines. At the simplest level, you can create a routine without a time or location dependency by configuring (or leaving on the default setting) Date & Time without any parameters. Then add your action items for your device(s). I created two routines. Feather on and Feather off (shown below). I’ll be adding my Hue gear to the Yonomi authorized list soon and create some more complex “routines” involving turning on lights and Sonos music. Once I complete this, I’ll ask Alexa to run the routine. More information is available from Yonomi on this type of usage.

yonomi sceneyonomi2

My personal style is to set up what I need in the Yonomi App and use Alexa voice control for on demand connected home actions/routines. The location based (geofencing) routines just work automatically, as do the time based routines. So once configured, while I could run routines from the Yonomi app, I prefer voice control. I suspect that when my list of routines gets big, I’ll need to depend more on the app to remind me what I’ve configured, but over time, I intend to use voice control whenever possible.

Completing My Alexa Connected Home with Sonos Stations via Yonomi

Earlier this week I started a quest to include my Sonos speakers in my Connected Home in order to control them and action music with my Amazon Echo. I found a “wow” solution for DLNA control using JRiver Media Center and a powerful Alexa skill called House Band. What was missing was a way to summon and play my cloud based streaming stations using Alexa’s voice control. Last night I found a great solution in the Yonomi App (available for iOS and Android) that just this week added Alexa integration.

I’ve got a bunch of streaming stations configured in Sonos and all are added to my Sonos favorites. I’ve got Pandora Radio fav’s, Amazon Prime Stations, Tune In Radio, plus some of my own local playlists.

Yonomi works using routines that you can set up based on time and/or location, but you don’t need to make routines dependent on those criteria, you can just set up a routine that you can summon on demand, and once you hook up via the Smarthome menu on the Echo App, Alexa can TURN ON (routine name). Magic.

I’ve got all kinds of “things” provisioned in the Echo App. Insteon modules, Hue Lights, etc. Here’s a short video where I turn on a lamp and then start a Pandora Station that plays ABBA radio using a Yonomi routine called “Fun Stuff” to my Living Room Sonos:

 

 

Here’s how I did it.

 

1. I downloaded the Yonomi app and set up and account and then ran Discovery and it found my Sonos Speakers. I connected Yonomi to Alexa.

 

connect2alexa

2. I created a new routine without a location or time based trigger that sent my Favorite:Abba Radio (Pandora Station) to my Living Room Sonos and named it “Fun Stuff”. (You want to avoid using names that might trigger Amazon Music to play directly on the Echo, which is why I didn’t name it Abba Radio.

 

routineroutine2

3. I selected Favorites in the Yonomi App and added Fun Stuff

 

favorites

4. I opened the Echo app from a computer (http://echo.amazon.com) and navigated to Smarthome and ran Discovery. Yonomi, the Sonos Speakers, and the Routines were discovered. Note: every time you add a new routine you will need to return to the Echo App and run discovery, the routines are not added automatically; think of them as devices that need to be discovered every time a new one is added).

 

I can now tell Alexa to Turn on Fun Stuff. Boom, the Sonos speaker starts playing Abba Radio.

 

Bonus! I get a notification on my Apple Watch showing what routine is being run.

 

yonomi

I’m REALLY liking this – and I’ve just gotten started. I’ve got Yonomi for streaming station Alexa voice control and House Band that can actually search my local collection and put together on the fly playlists by artist, album, etc. Can it get any better than this?

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