Talking to my house – Amazon Alexa (Echo) and SmartThings

Amazon recently competed their Alexa/Echo integration with SmartThings after previously integrating a number of other home automation hubs like Wink and Hue. I jumped on it as soon as it was available in the Alexa iOS app.

Setting up SmartThings with Amazon Alexa (Echo)

As with other SmartThings integrations, the first step will request an OAUTH login to SmartThings, and allow the user to select which devices can be shared with Alexa. At this time, only switch type devices (including virtual switches) appear to be supported. Sensors, complex/multi-types like thermostats, and modes are not supported at this time. After selecting the devices to grant permission, run the discover devices command on Alexa to enables them in the app as well as Alexa voice control. Amazon Alexa also allows the grouping of different devices to make it easier to turn several switches off or on at the same time.

Amazon Alexa device groups SmartThings devices in Amazon Alexa

How well does it work?

As mentioned above, mode changes and phrases are not supported out of the box with this integration, so I’ve been using virtual switches and the “Big Switch for Hello Home Phrases” app (an example of usage here) to create switches that control the mode. So now I can say “Alexa, turn on goodnight”, which will trigger the virtual switch to run “Goodnight!” on SmartThings.

I’ve been using SmartThings with Z-wave switches to control lights and other items. The response time with Echo/Alexa has been quite good – a voice command takes effect in roughly a second. See the following video for a simple z-wave switch demo I recorded – note that Alexa seems to do well with natural speaking pace, rather than other systems which can sometimes hitch between keywords and commands.

Voice control has been a mixed bag over the last few years.  I have had mixed results from a number of different offerings.  However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well Alexa does with voice commands. I’ve been yelling commands from all over the house for a couple of days and Alexa has yet to get a single command wrong. I’m very impressed so far.

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