Alexa and Siri and bringing it all together

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I have a longer home automation post in the works. It’s actually more philosophical than “how-to,” so I’m taking my time with it. My discovery this week bears mentioning on its own, though.

I’ve become more and more enamored with Amazon’s Alexa, and fascinated with its superiority to Siri. Echo dots are relatively cheap, and the Philips Hue integration with the spying little devices is polished. My biggest issue was that the majority of my home is automated using devices that are neither Alexa nor HomeKit compatible, at least not in a way that works with all of the scripting I’ve done previously.

I’d hacked around the HomeKit issues using homebridge, which I’ve talked about before. It requires an always on home server, so it’s not a solution for everyone, but it did the trick for me. I don’t have a HomePod, but I imagine that it would be a nice addition to that integration. What I do have is 4 Echo Dots, and what I wanted was Alexa control over my Indigo setup.

Then over the weekend I discovered that there’s an Alexa plugin for homebridge. The setup is, relative to the Siri setup, really simple. With the combination of my Indigo plugin and the Alexa plugin, I have complete voice control over all of my Hue devices and my Insteon/z-wave devices, as well as access to my custom Indigo Actions and Triggers.

If you have any kind of similar setup, it’s definitely worth looking at the homebridge-alexa plugin. You’ll need an account through cloudwatch to install the Alexa skill (search for homebridge in the Skill section of your Alexa app). You’ll also need to run your homebridge instance in insecure mode (homebridge -I). All together it took me about 15 minutes to have full Alexa access to all of my devices, and I can even add Insteon and Z-Wave devices to Alexa’s “rooms,” so that I can just tell the Dot in my office to “turn on the lights” and it knows which lights to toggle.

It has the further benefit of being allowing me to ask Siri and Alexa to do the same things, and not have to think as much about which one has which capabilities.

In case it didn’t come through in my writing, I’m very excited about this.