But we are unable to get true interactivity where the Echo queries our home automation setup, then have our home automation reply to the Echo on the status of our devices. We are thus unable to ask the Echo questions like: Who is at home right now? Is the room light turned on or off? Is the cupboard open or closed? Or when was the motion sensor last triggered?
That's where the Ask Alexa SmartApp comes in to fill up this gap. It is basically a combination of a SmartThings SmartApp together with a custom Alexa skill, and it allows for the Amazon Echo to query SmartThings, and then report back the query results. The video above shows the SmartApp reporting back on a few examples:
- Status and intensity of the lamp.
- Status of switches
- Whether a presence sensor is present, together with last departure.
- Last trigger of the motion sensor.
One of the key features in my opinion would be the Voice Reporting feature, where we are able to group several devices that we are particularly interested in, into a single voice report. Being able to easily check on whether cupboards and doors are closed, and whether motion sensors have been triggered recently, without having to navigate many mobile app screens for each device is a major feature that is not available anywhere else at the moment. I can definitely see how this would be an important use case for security purposes. The screenshot below shows a sample screen from the SmartApp, where I have the option of selecting which type of devices that I want to include in the Voice Report.
Besides the two way interactivity, the other fun part of this SmartApp is that because we are using a personal custom Alexa Skill, we are able to customize the invocation word as well as the responses. The default invocation was originally set to "SmartThings", but repeatedly saying "Alexa, ask SmartThings about the switch status" was quite a mouthful, and I changed the invocation word to "Jarvis" instead, which I found simpler.
At the end of the video, when I ask the SmartApp to run Movie Mode, I am also able to configure in the SmartApp the response I want, in this case "Movie Mode Started". Mine's a little boring, but I can definitely see how some people would configure in something more fun and personalized. The screenshot below shows how the custom acknowledgement is configured.
Anyway, if you do install this Ask Alexa SmartApp and are equally impressed with the developer's efforts, do remember to drop the developer a PayPal donation to thank him for his community efforts.