How Amazon Echo Helped Fix My Fractured Home Automation Ecosystem
The device, basically a Pringles can stuffed with wires, is deceptively well-designed.
Being the OCD homeowner I am, the inability to control all of my devices from a single point was not an acceptable situation. Instead, I went in search of a solution and think I’ve found one in the Amazon Echo or, as ZDnet’s David Gewirtz calls it, the “Pringles Can Of Doom.”
To preface this, you have to know that I’ve been on a home automation kick for the past two years and my latest obsession has been training my home to respond to voice commands. Of course, this isn’t something new as Apple’s HomeKit is built on Siri integration. However – as any of you who use HomeKit know – it comes with some serious limitations, the most glaring of which is the (current) inability to use logic to build scenes.
Instead you’re stuck with either a) controlling one device at a time or b) dealing with the insanely buggy and ecosystem-limited Insteon Hub Pro.
In the time I have owned my home, I have automated lights (Hue & Insteon), temperature (Nest), sound (Sonos), device power (WeMo) and security (ADT Pulse & Kwikset Kevo). To say that making each of these things play nicely which each has been a challenge is an understatement.
The addition of the Amazon Echo – though not without its own issues – has brought order to my home automation galaxy.
First of all, it understands and responds to voice commands WAY better than Siri. The microphones are so well-tuned that they can hear over music, tv, and even my boyfriend complaining about the constant changes I’m making to my house’s wiring.
The killer feature though is that Amazon Echo team is on a mission to make Amazon Echo integrate with the vast majority of technologies one way or another. To do this, they’ve made strategic integrations with SmartThings, Hue, Insteon, and most importantly IFTTT, the logic recipe-based “glue” of the internet.
What this means is that I am able to give my Amazon Echo a voice command that controls lights, device power, temperature and music all at one time. Personally, I’m OK leaving my security devices as isolated systems for obvious reasons but the rest is a breakthrough worthy of Tesla, himself!
For anyone looking to replicate my success, I will put out one or two recommendations out there…
1. Forget the Insteon Hub Pro, go for the Insteon Hub 2245-222.
Not only is it cheaper, the 2245 is the only one with the Amazon Echo integration. Yes, it’s choosing sides AGAINST Apple but even for the most ardent fanboy, you can see that Siri and HomeKit aren’t quite ready for primetime.
2. Invest in a SmartThings Hub even if you don’t have SmartThings devices.
The SmartThings hub is not only the critical link between my Amazon Echo and Sonos but it allows you to create virtual devices that help IFTTT trigger actions that bring critical components together. For instance, it can tell Sonos to play a specific track at a specific volume, at a specific time.
For now, I get to play and explore as that’a what the Amazon Echo is built for. If you have other tricks and tips, let me know. On my end, as I tech my Pringles can new tricks, I’ll pass them along, as well.