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developer offering skills/apps and taking requests

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developer offering skills/apps and taking requests
« on: January 18, 2017, 01:07:29 pm »
I have written several skills/apps/web sites with content designed to assist elderly users (and possibly others with disabilities) using Alexa, and welcome ideas for other things I could write that would be useful.  These are also designed not to cost too much or require building things you can't return, in case you try it and it doesn't work for your situation. 

1. "My email" published Alexa skill to manage GMail (or any other mail system you are willing to connect to Gmail) using the echo. Can read, reply, erase, star/unstar, mark read/unread, search, print messages and attachments, and display images in the app (or on TV screen if using Fire TV).   It was designed with a lot of repetitive instruction to avoid senior adults needing to learn/memorize, but also has "advanced mode" to stop the chatting as desired.  Instructions are at and the skill is in the Amazon skill store.

2. Integration of Broadlink remote control hub. Takes more time to set up, but not any programming skill.  I wrote a program to use a $30-$40 Chinese hub and any android device you have around, to control most RF and IR remote controlled devices with Alexa or Google home.  Described at - I use this to control my TV and will soon post a demo video so you can see how it works.  I use windows media center but it should work with any TV/cable box etc that you can control with a remote.  I can turn the TV on and off, control volume and say a channel name to switch to it.  I can also switch TV inputs and do some limited media player control but that depends on your setup.  I also control my fireplace, lights, and multiple outlets with an inexpensive set of remote controlled plugs (~$20 for 5 of them).  IMPORTANT NOTE - before buying this Broadlink hub, be sure to review the forums on my site.  Some users over the last couple of weeks are experiencing an issue that may be related to a manufacturer update of the product.  If you order it before that is resolved, be sure it is returnable.

3.  I am currently working on skills/apps to allow multiple SmartThings device commands to be chained together without saying "Alexa" over and over, another for text messaging via an email gateway (good for people who don't use a mobile phone but want to send and receive texts to other people's phones) and another that would send and receive texts in a roundabout way from a phone instead of email, but that could only work on android for now.

4.  On the github web site above I do have a forum where you can discuss these projects, get help and also suggest other needs you think a skill or program could fill.  I do a lot of things for my mother in law and it inspired me to try to write apps in this area to share with others.  Alexa and similar technology has great untapped potential.

5. I have just started a blog on this topic, as I can't find a central resource site focused on adapting technology for seniors, either for their use or to help their caregivers.  There is almost nothing there yet, but I hope to add more over time.  My planned next post will be a description of the tablet setup I purchased and adapted for easy senior use for a total cost <$100.  It also will have a forum where people can share ideas not just about technology but any suggestions in introducing it, maintaining it, etc.  Any other topics of interest or people who may want to guest blog please contact me.  That site is at - although there are some ads on the site, this is not a profit venture as I already have a day job.  It would be good if it makes enough to help offset products I purchase and test.   :)  If anyone knows of a site already doing this please let me know and I'll use that instead, but I could only find a few of those advertising "5 best products that..." sorts of pages.  No real interactive content sharing and discussion site.


Re: developer offering skills/apps and taking requests
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2017, 02:04:31 pm »
Your "My Email" skill looks interesting, but I cannot find it here in the UK. Would you be able to enable it for the UK? I believe this would involve adding "English (U.K)" as a supported language and re-publishing (assuming that you set the country availability to "In all countries and regions where Amazon distributes skills" when you originally published).


Re: developer offering skills/apps and taking requests
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2017, 05:40:27 am »
Hi Beckyricha
Wanted to make you aware of what I've been working on as it may be of interest to you with your own programing.

I've written a PC application that reads the history page of the Alexa app. It reads what was last heard along with the device name that heard it.

Armed with that we can now send information directly to any screen in the house, if the question was heard through e.g. Echo-2 or Dot-4 then we can assign a screen to each of them or we could send to all screens. This is a simple configuration mapping that the user can set up themselves.

You say 'Alexa ... dinnertime' and we could launch a video on every monitor ringing a gong.
You say 'Alexa ... dinner with Jessica' can fire up video conferencing and connect on wide screen tv. Tested with
You say 'Alexa ... Scrabble' and a scrabble board appears on a games table but just that one screen. (Tv Under glass)

You set your own words or phrases with your own actions.
'Alexa ... call for help' could trigger an automated call, flashing screens everywhere or telephone conference call to a relatives office. Seriously limitless.

The code for the screen is accessible and editable by the user so you could develop different types of skills that utilise the PC and everything the PC controls, all in house instead of or as well as cloud based SKILLs.

The first version of the application is uploaded now but had one or two issues that have now been fixed although still works fine. The second version will connect to any screen including mobile devices, tablets, phones etc without installing anything on any of them.

You could also set up your own php webserver on a client PC and utilise MySQL databases to drive functions called up directly by Alexa.

First version can be viewed here: