6/1/16 Mailbag: LME Answers Reader Questions

Newly-minted Echo, Dot and Tap owners are being welcomed to the Alexa fold every day, and a lot of them have questions. Today I’m addressing a few of the questions I’ve received most often in the past couple of months.

 

Hogwarts Spam

 

Q: I don’t have a smart phone or tablet. Is there any other way to access the Alexa app?

A: Yes. Go to http://alexa.amazon.com in your computer’s web browser and login with your Amazon username and password—this is safe, as the online Alexa app is an Amazon-owned and -operated site.

 

Q: Can Echo / Dot / Tap / Fire TV devices connect to each other, for example to tell the Echo in the livingroom to start playing lullabies on the Dot in the baby’s room?

A: No, as of this writing no Alexa-enabled devices can communicate commands directly to one another. It is possible to connect the Dot to the Tap via Bluetooth to stream audio, but that does not give you the ability to issue commands to one of the devices in order to control the other.

 

Q: If I own more than one Echo / Dot / Tap, can I use them in different rooms as an intercom system?

A: No. Alexa-enabled devices do not connect to one another in such a way that anything you say to one of them can be broadcast by another.

 

Q: Do you know if Amazon is planning to add…[insert desired feature/functionality here], and if so, when?

A: No. I am not an Amazon employee, and Amazon does not make its product roadmaps or development plans public. I have no doubt Amazon’s 1,000+ Echo/Alexa staffers are hard at work every day making Alexa better and more useful, but I do not receive any special advance notice when new functions or features are ready for release.

 

 

Q: Which smart home security systems work with Echo?

A: As of this writing, the only smart home security system with Echo integration is Abode—and Abode integration is a very recent addition. I’m aware of a couple additional integrations currently in development, but don’t want to recommend anything that doesn’t actually exist yet.

 

Q: Which is the best smart lighting system to get for use with my Echo / Dot / Tap?

A: The answer to this depends on your specific budget and needs. For those just getting started with smart lighting, I generally recommend going with LIFX bulbs. First, because they don’t require any hub or full-system purchase (such systems are still highly error-prone), you can start with a single bulb. Second, because they’re available in both white light and multicolor LED options. Third, because Alexa now offers native LIFX integration, you don’t have to enable the LIFX skill. I have two of these bulbs in my own home and have been very happy with them.

 

Q: When will there be a skill to tell me how to mix drinks or cook different foods?

A: There already are a number of skills to help you out in the kitchen or at the bar, but you couldn’t be faulted for having a little trouble finding them in the Alexa app. Go to the LME Complete Alexa Skills List and type “Food” into the search box.

 

Q: I read there’s now Echo/Alexa support for Rachio sprinkler systems and the Simplehuman Sensor Pro mirror, but I don’t see them listed among Connected Home skills or on the Smart Home tab in the Alexa app.

A: Those integrations do indeed exist, but again, they’re not easy to find in the Alexa app. I don’t know why they’re not listed on the Smart Home tab or among Connected Home skills, but if you go to the Skills tab in the Alexa app and search on Rachio or Simplehuman, you’ll find them. Note that you also need to use the text search function to easily locate the Abode smart home security system skill.

 

Q: Can you help me troubleshoot my specific Echo / smart home device setup?

A: No, but Amazon probably can. Call their Echo/Alexa support line at 1-877-375-9365 – 3am to 10pm PST, 7 days.

 

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The Abode smart home security system is the first such system to offer Echo/Alexa integration, and it’s also got an average review rating of 5/5 stars as of this writing (on 6/1/16). The Abode starter kit includes the hub, two window/door sensors, motion camera, and key fob. Additional components can be purchased and added to the system as needed. Abode offers both a free, self-monitoring option (via the free Abode mobile app) and various paid monitoring options. Currently priced at $399 for the starter kit.

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