After several years of germination in the USA, Amazon is bringing its Echo line of “smart speakers” to Canada. You can order now for delivery on December 5.
We’ve had a grey market Echo in our living room for most of this year; if I had to ballpark how we use it I’d say:
- 65% “Alexa, turn on the living room light” and “Alexa, turn off the television” – voice commands that control appliances plugged into WeMo outlets.
- 25% playing music from Spotify (“Alexa, play music by Bjork”).
- 10% checking the weather, querying Wikipedia, and various other skills.
Among the “various other skills” are two that I’m particularly proud of, as they’re ones I created:
- “Alexa, ask Farmer’s Almanac about today” – get a brief daily update from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- “Alexa, ask City Cinema what’s playing tonight” – find out what movie is playing tonight at City Cinema in Charlottetown.
Both skills are also usable from Google Home and Google Assistant (just say “Hey Google” instead of “Alexa”); Google’s devices have been available in Canada for most of the year, and you can pick them up in places like Best Buy.
One of the ironies of developing the Alexa skill for City Cinema is that Amazon gives me a credit of $100 a month against my Amazon Web Services bill. I used Amazon Web Services to host this website (and City Cinema’s), and the monthly bill for a reserved EC2 instance is must less than $100 a month. As a result, I haven’t paid a bill for AWS since February, and I’m gradually accumulating more and more credit.
Sensor lights over my garage do not seem to stand up to the cold and blustery winter weather. Is it possible to use a cell phone from the driveway to communicate with Alexa to turn the lights on over the garage and/or front door?
You’d be better off with an Apple-connected or Google-connected device, as you can use these from your phone; Alexa is still (mostly) rooted in the fixed speaker-in-the-home realm.