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We’re excited to announce that the official Arduino Amazon Alexa skill now supports television control.

You can now securely connect your TV set to Alexa using Arduino IoT Cloud and a few lines of code.

Here are some of the features which will be available to you:

  • Power on/off
  • Switch channel
  • Volume up/down/mute
  • Switch input sources

The easiest way to operate any kind of television is to act as if we were its very own clicker. In order to do so, we’ll show you how to capture the commands from the remote and play them back via Arduino (the TV will never know what hit it).

We’ll then create an Arduino IoT Cloud Thing with a TV property, and adapt the generated code to our needs. Finally, we’ll configure Alexa to access and control our TV.

Afterwards, we’ll be able to ask things such as:

  • “Alexa, turn the volume up on TV.”
  • “Alexa, mute TV” or “Alexa, unmute TV.”
  • “Alexa, next channel on TV.”

The complete step-by-step guide is available on our Project Hub.

Share your creativity with us! Our community means a lot to us, so we would love to see what you create. Make sure you document and post your amazing projects on the Arduino Project Hub and use the #ArduinoAlexa hashtag to make it discoverable by everyone!

Have fun playing with Alexa and IoT Cloud. If you have questions and/or build this project, let us know in the comments below.

We’re excited to announce the launch of the official Arduino Amazon Alexa Skill. 

You can now securely connect Alexa to your Arduino IoT Cloud projects with no additional coding required. You could use Alexa to turn on the lights in the living room, check the temperature in the bedroom, start the coffee machine, check on your plants, find out if your dog is sleeping in the doghouse… the only limit is your imagination! 

Below are some of the features that will be available:

  • Changing the color and the luminosity of lights
  • Retrieving temperature and detect motion activity from sensors
  • Using voice commands to trigger switches and smart plugs

Being compatible with one of the most recognized cloud-based services on the market, bridges the communication gap between different applications and processes, and removes many tricky aspects that usually follows wireless connectivity and communication.

Using Alexa is as simple as asking a question — just ask, and Alexa will respond instantly. 

Integrating Arduino with Alexa is as quick and easy as these four simple steps:

1. Add the Arduino IoT Cloud Smart Home skill.

2. Link your Arduino Create account with Alexa.

3. Once linked, go to the device tab in the Alexa app and start searching for devices.

4. The properties you created in the Arduino IoT Cloud now appear as devices!

Boom — you can now start voice controlling your Arduino project with Alexa!

IoT – secure connections

The launch of the Arduino IoT Cloud & Alexa integration brings easy cross platform communication, customisable user interfaces and reduced complexity when it comes to programming. These features will allow many different types of users to benefit from this service, where they can create anything from voice controlled light dimmers to plant waterers. 

While creating IoT applications is a lot of fun, one of the main concerns regarding IoT is data security. Arduino IoT Cloud was designed to have security as a priority, so our compatible boards come with an ECC508 crypto chip, ensuring that your data and connections remain secure and private to the highest standard. 

The latest update to the Arduino IoT Cloud enables users with a Create Maker Plan subscription to use devices based on the popular ESP8266, such as NodeMCU and ESPduino. While these devices do not implement a crypto chip, the data transferred over SSL is still encrypted. 

Getting started with this integration

In order to get started with Alexa, you need to go through a few simple steps to make things work smoothly:

  • Setting up your Arduino IoT Cloud workspace with your Arduino Create account
  • Getting an IoT Cloud compatible board
  • Installing the Arduino Alexa Skill

Setting up the Arduino IoT Cloud workspace

Getting started with the Arduino IoT Cloud is fast and easy, and by following this tutorial you will get a detailed run through of the different functionalities and try out some of the examples! Please note, you will need an Arduino Create account in order to use the Arduino IoT Cloud and a compatible board.

Getting an IoT Cloud compatible board

The Arduino IoT Cloud currently supports the following Arduino boards: MKR 1000, MKR WiFi 1010, MKR GSM 1400 and Nano 33 IoT. You can find and purchase these boards from our store

The following properties in the Arduino IoT Cloud can currently be used with Alexa:

  • Light
  • Dimmable light
  • Colored light
  • Smart plug
  • Smart switch
  • Contact sensor
  • Temperature sensor
  • Motion sensor

Any of these properties can be created in the Arduino IoT Cloud platform. A sketch will be generated automatically to read and set these properties.

Installing the Arduino Alexa Skill

To install the Arduino Alexa Skill, you will need to have an Amazon account and download the latest version of the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet, or use the Amazon Web application. You can find the link to the Amazon Alexa app here. Once we are successfully logged into the app, it is time to make the magic happen. 

To integrate Alexa and Arduino IoT Cloud, you need to add the Arduino skill. Then link your Arduino Create account with Alexa. Once linked, select the device tab in the Alexa app and start discovering devices.

The smart home properties already in existence in the Arduino IoT Cloud now appear as devices, and you can start controlling them with the Alexa app or your voice!

For more information, please visit the Arduino Alexa Skill.

Step-by-step guide to connecting Arduino IoT Cloud with Alexa

 A simple and complete step-by-step guide showing you how to connect the Arduino IoT Cloud with Alexa, is available via this tutorial.

Share your creativity with us!

Community is everything for Arduino, so we would love to see what you create! Make sure you document and share your amazing projects for example on Arduino Project Hub and use the #ArduinoAlexa hashtag to make it discoverable by everyone! 

People who were subscribed to updates on the Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) would recently have received an email informing that this kit is now available for sale. Last time we covered the ACK was back in September of 2018, the ‘release’ moniker meant ‘preview’ and there wasn’t any hardware one could actually purchase.

Over a year a later it seems that we can now finally get our grubby mitts on this kit that should enable us to make any of our projects Alexa-enabled. What this basically seems to mean is that one can spend close to 200 US dollars on an Arduino Zero and an Arduino shield-mounted WM-BN-MT-52 module from USI (though not listed on their site, but similar to the WM-BN-BM-22?) that integrates a 192 MHz Cortex-M MCU and a WiFi/Bluetooth module, as summarized on the Amazon Developer page for the ACK.

Getting Started with ACK

The idea behind the kit is that one uses the Arduino IDE to program the Cortex-M0+-based Arduino board with the application firmware. The fully assembled kit will listen on the network for any service discovery broadcast from an Alexa app (on a smartphone or similar), responding to such a broadcast with a summary of its capabilities, following the Smart Home Skill API protocol. This is essentially the application of mDNS with DNS-SD (Service Discovery).

After the Alexa app on one’s smarthome has found all Alexa-enabled devices, you can then use the Alexa voice interface to control those devices, such as turning them on and off, or adjusting parameters like the speed of a PWM-controlled fan. The Amazon Developer site provides an overview of what kind of devices are supported by the Alexa system for reference.

Welcome to the Amazon Walled Garden

For those who already rushed out to get an ACK, they will have run into the unfortunate realization that the ACK is not merely a fun piece of hardware to play around with. By purchasing it, you are literally signing up to become a part of the Amazon ecosystem, starting by registering the Amazon Developer Account. As noted by the intrepid reporters over at The Register last year,  part of the cost of the ACK is you paying for the Amazon cloud services that enable the ACK to work, with Amazon’s Alexa servers doing the heavy lifting of interpreting customer utterances for you.

The WiFi/Bluetooth module that one gets with the ACK also seems rather secretive, with no datasheet or detailed information available on the internet at the time of writing. It appears to be limited to 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz single-band) WiFi with no mention of anything newer than Bluetooth 4.1 support, meaning it misses out on the energy-saving features in Bluetooth 5 (and BLE).

So then there is the cool thing on one hand that with a bit of Arduino wrangling and the use of the Alexa Android app (or that Echo in your living room), you can make that smart toaster you have always dreamed of, allowing you to burn toast with a simple voice command. On the other hand it means that you fully rely on Amazon’s Alexa infrastructure and the continued existence of ACK support.

We Have Been Here Before

Those with a few years of Internet-of-Things news under their belt may remember Apple’s Homekit, which from a distance at least looks to be a carbon copy of the Alexa Connect Kit, with Apple-blessed hardware and SDK that people would have to integrate into their product to enable Smart Home goodness. Homekit is now pretty much on life-support.

Apple Homekit on iPad, iPhone and iWatch.

Apple decided to throw in the proprietary towel last year, instead joining the Thread Group, which was started by Google and ARM, and which focuses on creating a low-power wireless networking protocol, suitable for connecting smart devices within the home. Thread is built around IEEE 802.15.4, which specifies a low-rate wireless personal area network (LR-WPAN). This same standard underlies Zigbee. Networks supporting this standard are low-power and feature data rates of <1 Mb.

The skeptical view then is that WiFi-based home automation like what ACK offers is beating the same dead horse which Apple seemed to have been beating with Homekit, merely with Alexa instead of Siri. The same skeptic is also likely to note that the Thread protocol is not the open and free panacea some may see it as, with one having to be a (paying) member of the Thread Group to be allowed to have any input on its development, and to be allowed to ship Thread-enabled devices. But if you’re still itching to jump on the Alexa-enabled bandwagon and can live with the spectre of Amazon rule, the door is now open.

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