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Author Topic: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands  (Read 2464 times)

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Offline spooky123

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I just got an Echo Dot and a couple of months ago. I know Almond released support for it including apps. I saw some discussions about it in the forums but not in the last couple of months so I thought I'd add my first impressions and see if others had ideas, tips, or uncovered any golden nuggets.

My first impression is the Almond Smart Home skills works well. However, it does not discover all sensor devices. For, example, garage door opener and flood sensors were not discovered. So I could not control my garage door with Alexa without adding the Almond (non-smart home app) which gives access to scenes, and also setting up new scenes for Open Garage Door and Close Garage Door. Its a bit of a bummer with the garage door device not getting discovered because while you can overcome partially with scenes I was hoping for a command such as "Alexa, what is the status of the garage door" to know whether it is opened or closed. The voice commands for devices that are discovered works well. You can create groups in Echo for multi device control and that works well also. 

I then added the Almond (non-smart home skill) to gain access to scenes. I'd say this is an area that needs help. The scene names have to be named via a standardized list and some of my scenes don't fit the listing. I also find some of the standardized phrases long or not intuitive.  I get it is a matter of personality, but for example the standardized scene list has "Bright Living Room" which would never cross my mind to phrase that way. My scenes were Living Room Lights High, Living Room Lights Medium, and Living Room Lights Low, to have different levels of lighting. As another example, the standardized scene name is Open Garage Door and Close Garage Door.... while it might not be a norm, we wanted to have these scenes be something unique so others can't tell Alexa to open or close the garage as easily. For example, we wanted "Open XXXX Door" where XXXX is something others might not think of.

With both skills active and groups created in Echo, its very easy to mistakenly interact with a group vs scene based on specific phrasing. For example, I have a group called Living Room Lights in Echo and I changed one of my scene names to the standardized selection of Living Room Lights. If your scene is a different command set then you will have to be very particular about phrasing your wish. For example, Alxea, Living Room Lights On will use the group, but to use the scene it is Alexa, activate Living Room Lights Scene"..... keep in my the scene may do more commands than just lights group. Once you stack up multiple groups, scenes, devices, etc I know I would struggle keep the phrasing right. Naturally my first inclination would be to rename to distinguish but then its going to be less intuitive, especially if picking names from a standardized list. It does work quite well though if you can keep phrasing straight and can stick to the list. You might want to really think out your naming though.

I noticed comments in other threads that some devices that take a while to communicate (garage door openers, thermostats, etc) might error out. This is what I experienced on the Almond+ independently of Echo anyway. Although operating now in R89, in one interface or another my thermostat and garage door still flash the "could not get status" or "could not update status" or whatever on what I perceive to be the slower communicating devices. So it would make sense this would pass-through to Echo. I can say with Echo and my thermostat that it works just fine though. WIth thermostat, you can't do multiple commands quickly or it will error out. For example, if I set the temperature and then change my mind (or more accurately, if your wife tries to be funny and change it back right away) you need to give it a minute to finish before issuing another command to it.  I have not tried the garage door yet. 

A question - is there any way to set security on any commands?

For example, with the Dot in my garage and from outside the garage with it closed, it does hear and accept the the Alexa, open garage door scene command. While I don't think it is probably huge, someone knowing you have the dot could then feasibly open your garage door with out any security. Admittedly they might have to be a savvy person, but it wouldn't be a stretch then for them to voice command things to turn off alarm, unlock doors, etc which would be even more true if its a standardized naming list. Securing this within the Dot or Almond+ is where it belongs, but at least for now that's one reason I don't want to follow a list of names. I could name my garage door scene such that to open the garage door it would have to be...Alexa, activate 743H12 open (ie, embedded a pass/pin which isn't super secure but beats nothing).



Offline d.kiran

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Re: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2016, 12:24:26 pm »
I then added the Almond (non-smart home skill) to gain access to scenes. I'd say this is an area that needs help. The scene names have to be named via a standardized list and some of my scenes don't fit the listing. I also find some of the standardized phrases long or not intuitive.

I was under the impression that I had to name the scenes a specific way. The Almond app is misleading that it makes you believe that you have to name it a certain way. Apparently you can choose your own name for a scene and the list of scenes is just a suggestion :-)

Offline spooky123

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Re: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2016, 02:18:50 pm »
I was under the impression that I had to name the scenes a specific way. The Almond app is misleading that it makes you believe that you have to name it a certain way. Apparently you can choose your own name for a scene and the list of scenes is just a suggestion :-)

Thanks, I will have to try again.
I did try to use my own names for scenes a few times, but Alexa would not recognize them then.
Once I accepted something from the list then they were good to go.
I'll give another try over the weekend.

Offline mparadis

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Re: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2016, 07:12:36 pm »
Correct the list of the names is a suggestion because they are ones that are programmed to work better with the Echo. Amazon limits that to I believe 50,000 names so they encourage you to use one of the ones listed. Others work as well but not as flawlessly, I recommend doing the Alexa voice training as well.

As far as devices, again Amazon greatly limits what kind of devices can be controlled, no doors / locks / garage doors work at this time. (I think it's a security feature). Some of those are now supported indirectly I believe.

I prefer to use the scenes I build in the Alexa app (limited to Alexa discoverable devices) but it works very well.

There is no security options, which is why some things are restricted.

Overall I like the way it works but there could be improvements. Some things will be restricted because of the security issues like you mentioned.


Offline spooky123

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Re: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2016, 08:04:37 pm »
Thanks, I tried again and you're right, it does not have to be named from the selection list.

My living room light high and medium scenes work good, though I have noticed that sometimes "Alexa activate living room xxx scene" is accepted just fine and other times it forces me to include the "tell Almond to activate..."

For whatever reason, my LR lights low scene can never be found. Alexa recognizes what I said via the logs and even suggests did I want LR low scene but then says can't be found. I tried removing/re-adding the app and scene a number of times without luck. I will try a different name next time.

The logs indicate Alexa is hearing it correctly and I don't have such problems so far with the Almond Smart Home skill.... seems isolated to the Almond standard skill that provides scene access.

Offline Ohiomedic

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Re: Echo and Almond+, my first impressions and a question on securing commands
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2016, 11:02:21 am »
Thanks, I tried again and you're right, it does not have to be named from the selection list.

My living room light high and medium scenes work good, though I have noticed that sometimes "Alexa activate living room xxx scene" is accepted just fine and other times it forces me to include the "tell Almond to activate..."

For whatever reason, my LR lights low scene can never be found. Alexa recognizes what I said via the logs and even suggests did I want LR low scene but then says can't be found. I tried removing/re-adding the app and scene a number of times without luck. I will try a different name next time.

The logs indicate Alexa is hearing it correctly and I don't have such problems so far with the Almond Smart Home skill.... seems isolated to the Almond standard skill that provides scene access.
As for living room lights low scene you don't really need it. If your set all those lights in the Alexa app in a group you can just use it. You can say "Alexa dim living room" to dim the lights, or Alexa set living room 5%".

 

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