Alexa for the technologically challenged

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Jul 29, 2017
Southern Oregon
I am not a techy person, but I do enjoy using my iPad. My hand function is declining. My speech is slightly slurred and nasally, but still understandable.

A friend of mine gave me an Amazon “Fire HD 8 with Alexa”, 16gb, for Christmas.

I’m embarrassed to say it’s still sitting on my shelf, unopened.

My iPad is an iPad Pro with 256 gb, but there is no “Alexa” on it.

At some point, I would like to be able to access door locks, light switches, etc. using just my voice, or a finger, or perhaps eye gaze. But I haven’t a clue how to get started.

What is the next step for me in moving towards an Alexa system? What else do I have to buy? Do I have to download an App? What do I need to set up? At what point does the electrician come in? Can I do it all with my iPad, or is the little fire HD device better?

I thank you in advance for any assistance.

Karen, I wish I were there to help you. It's hard to explain things over the phone or via text. The short answer is yes, there is an ios app for Alexa and you should be able to set up a "smart home" and control it from your iPad.

I'm in a similar situation because I have three echos (Alexas) and I use both PC/Apple products. I was able to set up a ring doorbell and view who is at my door on my iPad and iPhone. Next was the Nest smart thermostat.

I've found lots of information from Geeks on the apple forum.

Also, the Gleason foundation is providing equipment for PALS and all you need is an electrician.

Here is a link that tells about the app for ios. I'm in the same boat and am working to get all my devices in order. I've put it off way too long.

The other thing that you can consider is hiring a Geek to take a look at your house and your immediate and future needs so a working system can be set up quickly. Some will also train you and teach you some tricks for now and for the future.
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We don't have the whole house set up, because I am home most of the time to do stuff, but we do have a pretty extensive Alexa collection.

We have an Alexa Fire Cube set up on 2 of the TVs. They are easy to set up. You will need someone to plug them into the TVs if you cannot reach the right connectors. I had each of them set up in about 15 minutes. From there, you can use the Alexa via the fire cube to set things up, mostly using your voice. You can customize it easily by connecting to your cable provider (if you have one) or simply downloading Apps to give you access to a great variety of programming. Again, if you had someone else there to just enter stuff for you, it will go faster. He can watch just about anything from Netflix, YouTube, NFL, NBA, MLB (big sports fan), CNN, etc. by just telling Alexa to go to a channel. You can also just say things like "Alexa, find me a comedy movie" or "Alexa, put on House of Cards". With most channels, it even remembers where you are in a series, episode or movie. The Fire Cube is an absolute God-send, because he can't press the buttons on the TV remote any more.

We have an Echo Spot in the bedroom. It has a small screen and is camera enabled. I have it angled so that I can see DH when he's in bed. (I also have a shield that blocks the camera when I don't want it enabled.) It allows him to contact me on one of the other Alexas in the house. There is a skill (think iPhone app) that is called "Drop-in" that allows 2 way communication between 2 Alexa units (we have an Alexa and 3 Echo Dots in various rooms). The only catch there is you have to know which Alexa device to contact (you can name each device). So, if he knows I am in the sunroom, he can Drop-in on Sonny (yes, my sunroom device) and we can talk back and forth. If he doesn't know what room I'm in, he can use the "Announce" skill and his voice will broadcast to all the devices in the house. Either way, I can use the Alexa app on my phone to see him while we're speaking or just talk to him via the dot.

As far as lights, if they plug in, you can get a small plug unit (mine are TP-link) for about $20. Plug the light's cord into the plug unit in the wall, then Alexa will find the lights. Again, you name the lights and then tell Alexa, "Alexa, turn on the bedroom lights". Easy, peasy.

Alexa, at least when I got them, does not play well with most ceiling fans. I got a device called "Bond" which can control lights and ceiling fans via a connected Alexa. Again, easy to set up. You plug it in and use the Bond App on your phone to connect it to the fan/light via the remote that comes with the fan, then to connect to any Alexa device(s) you have. So now he can say, "Alexa, turn on the bedroom fan". One Bond device covers our entire house.

We've talked about a "Ring" device for the doorbell, but DH is not home alone anymore, and I can see out the glass panels on either side of the door. We live in a safe, pretty rural area, so I don't worry too much. We also have a dog with a very loud bark, who is our "early warning system", so I haven't gone there yet.

What I've done is not very sophisticated. We pretty much did it a step at a time if you want to start small. One time I did have an issue and I called the helpline on Amazon - where I bought everything - and they walked me through it.

As Kim said, Team Gleason is now helping with house automation. I believe they fund it and will even send someone to your house to evaluate your needs and set everything up for you. Check it out on their website - that may be your way to get things going.

Losing the use of his hands/arms has been really hard - I think as hard or even harder that the use of his legs. I believe that the automation has given my DH a small measure of independence back. The first one is the most intimidating, but after that, it's really easy.

Just do it!

P.S. Sorry this got so long! :roll:
Thanks guys! I’ll take a look at the Team Gleason stuff, but it sounds like I may have to hire a geek. It still feels overwhelming to someone as technologically clueless as I.
I see you can test drive any echo device at the amazon brick and mortar stores. If anyone lives near a store you might want to wander by. You might meet a friendly geek too! The only store in Oregon is in Portland.
Karen try to set up your device. Or get someone to. Amazon is having a sale on the smart home things plugs and bulbs and such. But only if you have an echo device. You do but they don’t know it yet!

I am not very techy either but setting up my dot was easy.
A geek friend is staying with me in a few weeks and I’m going to put her to work.
Now that is the best solution Karen!

Please can you stress to your geek friend at the start that while you would appreciate her doing the basic setup, you need to then do everything she teaches you. It will be slower if she gives directions then waits for you to do each task, yes. But if she just demonstrates 'here you can do this, and this oh and that too', then you won't take any of it in.

If she can be patient enough to do things several times over with you it will really help you feel completely confident in using what is setup.

I'm excited for you! Let us know how it all goes :)
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